Pencil Crayons… or is it Coloured Pencils?

I dug out my pencil crayons again today. And my mandala colouring book. And being the type of person I am, I ended up getting a little distracted with the order of the pencil crayons. You see the set I have all have numbers on them but if you order them numerically they’re completely out of order in terms of the colour spectrum.

Numerical order:

Well, that would just hurt after a while I think. It turns out there’s a little pamphlet that came inside the box. And re-sorting the pencil crayons in order set out in the little pamphlet made it far more pleasing to the eye:

So I wanted to go and look up why they were numbered “out of order.” And noticed that the tin called them “colour pencils” where I always think of them as “pencil crayons.” And down the rabbit hole I went…

First we have the whole colour vs. color right? Apparently we can blame the -our -or differences (for example: behaviour/behavior; honour/honor; labour/labor; neighbour/neighbor) on the publication of two dictionaries: “A Dictionary of the English Language” published in 1755 by Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster’s “American Dictionary of the English Language” from 1828.

As an aside, if you like this sort of thing, Simon Winchester wrote The Professor and the Madman, which is a great book about the Oxford English Dictionary.

Back to the -our -or; the English-English merged the -or and -ur endings of the Old Frech (from wence the words came) whereas the American-English stuck to the Latin -or endings.

So what about “colour pencils” vs. “pencil crayons?” The wikipedia entry is titled “Colored pencil” although it recognizes in its opening line that “colored pencil” “coloured pencil” and “pencil crayon” are all the same thing. It notes “In Canada, coloured pencils are known as pencil crayons.” There’s no real explanation but seems like it was really just an acknowledgement of that the things are – crayons shaped and produced to be similar to pencils. It’s not coloured lead/graphite after all but rather are wax or oil-based.

And there are people who take this all very seriously. There is a Colored Pencil Society of America! And also a UK Coloured Pencil Society but it appears as though the Canadian version is no longer active.

Oh and there’s nothing on the Faber-Castell website that I could find that explains the numbering system. But there’s an awesome downloadable PDF that lists them all!


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