Purple Prose

Rebeccapurple, or #663399Somewhere in the narcissistic hubub of finishing my PhD thesis this summer, I missed a great story about purple.

“Great” may not be quite the right term, as it concerns the death of a six-year-old girl named Rebecca Meyer; her father, Eric Meyer, is a leading figure in web design–specifically Cascading Style Sheets or CSS. He had been public about his family’s struggle as Rebecca was diagnosed with, treated for, and ultimately consumed by cancer. After her death on 7 June, he invited people to wear purple to her memorial, as it was her favourite colour.

Colleagues in the web community went further, proposing that CSS4 recognise the hexadecimal colour #663399 as “beccapurple.” Eric Meyer accepted the offered tribute, his only intervention being that if the community elected to adopt the name, it be “rebeccapurple” instead:

A couple of weeks before she died, Rebecca informed us that she was about to be a big girl of six years old, and Becca was a baby name.  Once she turned six, she wanted everyone (not just me) to call her Rebecca, not Becca.

She made it to six.  For almost twelve hours, she was six.  So Rebecca it is and must be.

There is an astonishing weight of sadness in that second paragraph, simply and eloquently stated.

The community assented, and so the change has been made. Those who know me know I’m a sucker for purple (whilst Eric Meyer’s colleague Jeffrey Zeldman wrote that “Grownups don’t have favorite colors”, I beg [with all my Canadian ‘u’s] to differ): my daughter (eight) knows that I’m the one who inscribes the books we give her for Christmas and her birthday because the pen ink is purple. I am redesigning my music website after the same studious neglect that helped me miss this story the first time round, and as I scratch my head at code and whatnot, I will need to make room for Rebeccapurple in it.


Did I say I am a sucker for purple? Supergrape in the snow

My first car was purple–not by choice, but I didn’t complain. Of what could I possibly complain? I won the car. It was the Dry Grad car for Nanaimo School District 68 in 1997, and they pulled my name out of a barrel and I won it. Simple as that. This photo does not perhaps reflect her colour best, but I only got a digital camera in 2006 when our daughter was born, after which time I took more pictures of her than my car. Anyway, she was purple and I named her Supergrape, the punch line to a joke from my childhood (What’s purple, wears a cape, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound?) People told me she looked more eggplant than grape, but I didn’t listen.

I drove that car for 10 years: up and down Vancouver Island, from Nanaimo to Ottawa five times, and one round trip from Ottawa to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, making it a coast-to-coast car; also down the coast of Washington and Oregon as far south as Crescent City, California. On that trip, my companion was cleaning the windows when I cheekily critiqued her squeegee technique. She swung, I moved, and she put two significant scratches in the lovely purple paint of the hatchback. When we got back to town, we used the car’s colour code to get a small pot of touch-up paint in the matching hue.

“Super Grape Metallic,” said the guy behind the desk.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Super Grape Metallic. That’s the name of the colour.”

Take that, you critics.

Michael Munnik at the Ottawa Folk Festival 2006, with his purple Mahalo ukuleleMy first ukulele was also purple; I got it, I told people, to match my car. There it is, dangling from the mic stand during one of my sets at the Ottawa Folk Festival in 2006. James Hill was doing a demo session, and I went with my nephew. They were selling the colourful blighters for just $20, so I got one to match my car. Played it as a percussion instrument live on stage just a couple of hours later. It has become indispensible to my sets, and I upgraded to a far nicer and more reliable one. I still have the Mahalo, though. It lives in the basement back in Canada, and I think my nieces and nephews play on it from time to time.

Cars, ukuleles, pen ink: I don’t mind saying all of them are rather similar in hue to Rebeccapurple, so I’m glad to pass on her tribute.

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