Lipstick names — a textual analysis

Anyone who has attempted to combine the ‘Presentation of Self’ theories of Erving Goffman and the semiotic modelling methods of  Roland Gérard Barthes with regard to the names of lipsticks, could well consult the work of professor Debra Merskin (of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, US), who has categorised the names of no less than 1,722 lipsticks.

“The names of lipsticks and how they penetrate women’s psyches as semiotic tools used in branding are the foci of the present study.”

The professor’s study delineated 14 name-categories for the lipsticks, and then allocated the names accordingly – the results are listed here in order of their popularity.

     Food: 24%
•     Color: 20%
     Sex and Romance: 10%
•     Elements and Minerals: 9%
     Emotions and Characteristics: 8%
     Other: 8%
     People and Names: 5%
     Flowers: 5%
     Places: 4%
     Objects: 3%
     Darkside: 2%
     Arts and Media: 1%
     Birds and Animals: 1%
     Times and Seasons: <1%

Following the classification, the professor concludes that :

“When women ‘put on a face,’ or ‘put on war paint,’ they are not only acting in line with social prescriptions of feminine beauty, but are also involved in a system of meaning that helps them to navigate the sea of changing conditions that are a part of postmodern social experience.”

The paper : Truly Toffee and Raisin Hell: A Textual Analysis of Lipstick Names is published in the journal Sex Roles, Volume 56, Numbers 9-10 (2007), 591-600, and can be ‘red’, in full, here :

Notes:

Since the survey, one of the lipsticks in the ‘Other’ category But Officer has been withdrawn from production.

The paper draws attention to potential shortcomings regarding the difficulties of categorising names which might fit into multiple categories  e.g. ‘Rose’ –  which could conceivably fit into Color, Flowers, People and names, Places, Sex and Romance, and Darkside.

The website which was used to retrieve the index of names :   www.thelipstickpage.com   is now off-line.