One of the fashionable colors of Spring 2011, Pantone suggests, will be the company’s own 18-4039, otherwise known as Blue Curacao. (via Intlxpatr) According to Pantone’s press release, the color “pays homage to the 2010 Color of the Year, Turquoise” and “evokes thoughts of tropical destinations”.

The blue and the tropic destination are nearly synonymous. Blue Curaçao is a spirit, a tongue-stainingly blue drink whose vivid color belies a more gentle citrus flavor. The drink itself comes from the Caribbean, known for its turquoise waters and pleasant beaches. It is made from the bitter citrus fruit called curaçao. The fruit is a descendent of the Seville orange, beloved of British marmalades. It grew even more bitter in the thin soil of the island to which it was transplanted by its Spanish immigrants.

That island is in the Caribbean, and goes by the same name as the fruit. Both drink and fruit are named after the island, although the origin of the island’s name is not known to the authors of the OED. It is regularly mispelled as curaçoa in English, as evidenced by the earliest uses of it which the OED records. (1810 R. J. Thornton Family Herbal 658 “The unripe fruit dried, are called Curaçoa oranges.”; 1813 T. Moore Twopenny Post Bag (L.), “And it pleased me to think at a house that you know Were such good mutton cutlets and strong curaçoa.”) The OED consciously the issue of whether the drink is named is named after the island or the fruit.

Whoever last edited the Wiktionary entry for it proposes it is a Dutch word, from the Portuguese curação, a restorative, or a cure. It’s plausible, thought I would love to see more evidence for it.

The island itself is where my interest in the word began, thanks to a little snippet in The Economist last month. That little announcement said that Curaçao the island was no longer part of the Netherlands Antilles: it, along with San Maarten, had become a nation in its own right on the 10th of October. It’s a new nation-state, with vivid blues, oranges, and a liquor to be its ambassadors.

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*© S. Worthen 2009