Open Letters

An Open Letter to the People Who Come Up with the Names for Nail Polish Colors

To Whom It May Concern,

Now, let me just get something straight right away my good Sir(s) and/or Madam(s) who comes up with the names of nail polish colors. I envy your job. I do. I would include Nail Polish Name-Giver in a list of my dream jobs, probably before World’s Greatest Magician but maybe not quite on par with Surprise Missing Kardashian Child.

I once worked as a trend forecaster (that is a REAL job… I think) so I have some inkling of how this whole naming process works.  I am thinking you are presented with the HOT NEW COLORS of the season but they are, sadly, nameless, so you sit in a glass-walled conference room in some nice ergonomic chairs for days on end, during which you read lots of articles in New York Magazine or Wallpaper or High Times or some hipster lady-zine some hipster lady just made up and no one else knows but you because you are so “in the know”. Then you investigate the hottest vacation destinations like Bali or The Bermuda Triangle or Nantucket or Libya and then it is up to you and your team of clever name-givers to then tap into your most creative and more importantly – your most punny.

(Punny is a fun take on the words “pun” and “funny”, but obviously you know that if you are so adept at coming up with names like “Sand Tropez” and “Lapis of Luxury.”)

I think nail polish naming must be sort of like the make-up industry’s version of taking Ayahuasca and meeting your inner spirit animal while sitting in a sweat-lodge with a shaman for three days. Because really, how else could you possibly come up with the names for Essie’s latest collection? It’s Braziliant! Which in this case is both a pronoun, an adjective and definitely a made-up word that I like to say the way that I imagine Oprah would say it, with lots of extra vowels and a hug. In the Braziliant collection you have reached a new height with your puns, thanks to the especially alluring sea-foam color “Absolutely Shore.” Well let me tell you, I am absolutely SHORE I would like to wear this color on my toes but only when I’m really tan, because otherwise it just looks like I contracted a fungus.

I love the nail polish color names that really say a lot about the person wearing them. Like “Hi Maintenance” which to me says, “I am high maintenance. Also, hi.” Or “Trophy Wife” which says “I am clearly not a trophy wife because no self-respecting trophy wife wears shimmery green nail polish, although I’m not sure if trophy wives really do respect themselves in the first place.” And then there is “E-Nuf Is E-Nuf” which tells me you are either a huge e.e. cummings fan or you are a 16-year-old sending text messages to your mom to totally just leave you alone for once, gosh.

And it’s not just Essie. The Sirs and/or Madams who work at OPI are equally talented in the punny department, if not moreso. Just take a look at “Do You Think I’m Tex-y” (that makes no sense) or “Red My Fortune Cookie” (probably a little racist), or my favorite of the OPI punny selections – “Here Today… Aragon Tomorrow” (which contrary to popular belief is not a special edition Lord of the Rings nail polish line even though I wish it was).

It is my dream to someday inspire a nail polish collection, at which point I hope there are still untapped puns to tap. So if you could just be a little less clever with your punny names until I get my nail polish collection that’s partially inspired by the prints of Lilly Pulitzer and the sound of a baby laughing, it would be really just so very Braziliant.


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  • Mabel Peralta

    hahah this is brilliant!

  • Brittany Woodell

    I used to work in a salon that used OPI colors, and sometimes when it was slow I would go over and try to guess what the names of the colors would be. I especially loved the Russian collection.

  • Holly McDonald

    So funny! Being a nail polish namer is my DREAM!

  • Caitie Rosen

    I just bought both Brazilliant and Absolutely Shore…partially for the colours, but more so for the names. I really enjoyed this article, because I have shared most of those thoughts at one point or another. I always entered the “name a new colour” crayola contests in hopes of sharpening my colour naming skills.

  • Kara Tumminello

    There was a short article on naming nail polish in W last month! It’s called “Welcome To The Pun House” on page 74 of the June issue (with Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts as the cover story). It talks to the OPI vp about how they basically do exactly what you described (re: sit in nicer chairs than we have & make puns all day).

  • Jeri Light

    love this. this winter I started buying nail polish by the truckload and was always disappointed in the nail (the brand at target clearly doesn’t try very hard in THEIR ergonomic chairs) so I renamed them much more brilliantly.

  • Ashley Lynn Cook

    So true! Awesome article…I swear, I HAVE to look at the name before I buy it, lol, sometimes if I don’t like the name, I don’t buy it! How ridiculous it THAT!? 😀 I’m a huge OPI fan, I’m constantly trying to memorize all the names, my friends at the salon think it’s hilarious, I come in and say: “Can I have I’m Totally Fort Worth It today?” and they try to guess which one it is. Thanks Annie!

  • Michelle Gregory

    I though it was only my dream!!

  • Ingrid Henny

    Worst one I ever saw was an ADORABLE pink-ish red called SOPHIE’S CHOICE. No joke. I put it back. I will not be the Jewish girl wearing Holocaust-themed nail polish, thank you very much.

  • Anika Guldstrand

    YES. I have said for years how great it would be to come up with the crazy names for nail polish for a living. We need to find these people!

  • Karen Seifert

    My favorite name ever was “Frankly My Dear…” and it was a nice shade of Scarlett red. Maybe this is just my love for Vivien Leigh & Clark Gable…

  • Kelley Krapp

    Am I the only person who saw the color of “Trophy Wife” and immediately thought of Bunny Lebowski?

  • Kelly Fuchs


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