“Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask: ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me: ‘This is going to take more than one night.’” — Charlie Brown
Brown is made by mixing red, orange and yellow with black. The word comes from the Old English brun, which wasn’t a colour but an indication of a dark shade. Brown is the colour of soil, wood, dead leaves, nuts, toast, chocolate, faeces, the Eiffel Tower and the United Parcel Service (UPS). A “brown” was the Victorian term for a penny.
Most naturally occurring diamonds are brown. This makes them less useful as gems, so they are used in industry as cutting blades. However, the largest cut diamond in the world is brown. Found in 1985 in South Africa, it was first known as the “Unnamed Brown”, but was renamed the Golden Jubilee Diamond. It weighs 109g.
Brown eggs come from hens with red or brown earlobes. White eggs are produced by hens with white earlobes.
In 1906, the antivivisection movement erected a statue of a terrier in Battersea to commemorate the life of a brown dog subjected to live experimentation by the surgeon William Bayliss at University College, London, in 1903. Bayliss was a respected scientist, whose work on dogs led to the discovery of hormones. The statue became the focus of vandalism and violent clashes between antivivisectionists and medical students that became known as the Brown Dog Riots.
Brownies, the junior organisation for Girl Guides, were originally called “Rosebuds” but they were renamed by Lord Baden-Powell after the girls complained this was too soppy. The new name came from an 1870 story of the same name by the children’s author Juliana Horatia Ewing.
Outside the polar ice caps, the only place in the world where you won’t find any brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) is Alberta, Canada. From its home in Mongolia, the brown rat followed the spread of human cities across the steppes, finally swimming the Volga into Western Europe in 1727. From there it travelled the world on ships, scurrying ashore at every port. In the United States there are about 150 million brown rats; in Britain, they now outnumber the people.
Brown was an important colour for Hitler. The early Nazi paramilitary organisation, the Sturmabteilung, or “storm troopers”, wore brown uniforms and were known as “the Brownshirts”. The Nazi party HQ in Munich was called The Brown House, and Hitler slept under a brown quilt embroidered with a swastika and wore brown satin pyjamas and a brown silk dressing gown.