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November 20, 2009 - Black & Blue or Blue & Black?

Is it just me, or has there been a shift of preference of which ink comes out of your ball-point pen over the last few decades? Beseemingly, (I just made that up) when I was kid, (like in the 60's & 70's, er, the 1960's and 70's) "pens" were blue.

Ink was blue. You wrote in blue ink most of the time, except if you were writing in a legal ledger, then you used black or red.
Nowadays, (thumps his cane on the floor) it seems to me that most pens are black. Blue is still available, but not as preferred as black. Hear me out though. I too, prefer black. I always wanted black when I got blue. But blue was all they had.
Was there some slow evolution of ink color over time, or am I just imaging this? Was it too expensive to produce black ball-point ink? That can't be because before ball-point pens, India-ink was black. Black as ink. Pure and simple. Tattoo your brother on a Spanish galleon. It was black.

Was there some check-writing legibility propaganda that prompted marketeers to create more black pens?
People wanted real answers in 'black & white'...?
Black washed out of a pocket-protector easier than blue? (I hardly think so)
"The 60's Blue-collar Society"...?
Something subliminal about the 'blues' that came through between the lines...?
Granted, more colors are available to us now in our jet-set, multi-colored world, but when it comes down to the real meat & potatoes of writing with a pen; it's still black or blue. Or blue or black. Seems to me.
I turned to the internet for answers, but was not able to find anything conclusive. (That means on the first page of Google. heh.)
I was able to find however that there is a fear of writing - Graphophobia.
And a fear of writing in public- Scriptophobia.

Someone even asked, "Is there is a phobia name for fear of writing with blue pens?"
Answer: "No and I wouldn't worry about it."


However, they go on to say:
"I prefer to write with black ink and sometimes I haven't been paying attention when I have bought the pen and end up with blue ink. I'll write with it, but don't like it (don't like the color on the paper) and as soon as possible will go out and buy the black pen. The odd thing is, I don't mind red ink on occasion."

Ha ha! I think I'm on to something here! Somewhere the tables have been turned. I knew it! (Spoken like a true conspiracy theorist)

I also found out that "Few words enter more largely into the composition of slang, and colloquialisms bordering on slang, than does the word BLUE. Expressive alike of the utmost contempt, as of all that men hold dearest and love best, its manifold combinations, in ever varying shades of meaning, greet the philologist at every turn."
[John S. Farmer, "Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890, p.252]

Near as I can tell, blue and black pen refill prices are the same.
Further research has turned up little.
I did find something called the "Dong-A Miffy Scented Gel Ink Pen" which "Comes in 10 great sweet scented colors!"
I thought not applicable to the conundrum at hand, but nonetheless a bit surreal.

From the Cosmopolitan magazine troop I also came across a "Pen Color Quiz" which foretold the "Color to Fit Your Personality" with results in "Black, Red or Purple" from CosmoGIRL!
It seems blue isn't even on the radar with teens nowadays.

And from one of the by far greatest volumes of hits on my keywords searches - Promotional pen marketers - there was this brief but rather cryptic opinion: "Pen manufacturers will agree that the most common ink color in use today is black ballpoint pen ink. This is the case because most people who order customized pens are those who are professionals in their fields including top business executives, sales people, and those who are self employed."
They went on to say, "Blue and black ink are the most common because they are the most professional, but that is not to say that you do not have any other options for ink colors.
Black ballpoint pens are among the most common for those who are office workers and sales people, but if you are a children's clothing or toy producer, pink, green and red are might be ideal ink colors for your needs."

Further explaining their philosophy of aesthetics, "Choosing a black ballpoint pen is wise, even if the ink color is not black. This is because black goes with everything and makes it easier for your clients to carry their personalized pen along with them on their business ventures." Clever marketers. They are always thinkin'.

However, maybe that is the crux of the ink choice: "black goes with everything."

I may have to go undercover and find an insider at the Bic company to see if there is a true paradigm shift. Meanwhile...

Please oblige me, gentle reader, by taking the pen color preference poll above.
I must have answers...!


TC said...

Actually, people are still using blue pens. However, like most senses, your color perception fades as you get older. While most colors tend to get washed out, the blues become deeper and darker. To mitigate these effects, many older adults take to wearing light red, or "rose colored" glasses.

dignature said...

Hmmm. Red and blue together make magenta, which maybe a little to conservative-right leaning for rose-colored glasses wearing former 60's blue advocates. Maybe you are on to something though. Perhaps the pen companies realized they had to avoid the whole "Red State / Blue State" mentality and chose black, "the absence of color", as a non-political denominational alternative.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to mention that we discovered a few years ago that blue ink does not reproduce or image as well. I was just at a closing and the closing company required black ink on all documents. It is hard for me to tell on a black copy which signature is the original. We are required to submit the original for claims and they have called me to exchange the copy for the original. It would have been easier if the ink was blue on a black & white copy. Maybe someone in the copying or printing business could explain why.