This Is How Nail Polishes Get Their Names

Updated 09/23/16

Raise your hand if you've you ever stood in front of the rows and rows of polish bottles at the nail salon for way longer than you probably should with no idea of what color to get. Good, put them down. Now raise your hand if you've lifted the bottle, saw that it had a funny name, and decided to go with it just for its silly moniker. Yeah? Same here. (Oh, you can put your hand down now.)

Whether punny (Turquoise & Caicos by Essie) or just a bit odd, nail polish names are always a hoot. Gone are the days of numbers or basic titles like "red" or "blue"—polish names are a huge part of a brand and what makes color so successful. While we envisioned a boardroom of people randomly flipping through pages of a book and pointing to words to find a name for polishes, there's actually a whole process to it, so we went right to the brands to find out just how they do it.

Keep scrolling to learn more!

OPI

OPI Nail Polish in Yodel Me on My Cell $14
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"Inspiration comes from food, music, fashion, film, art, and pop culture. For destination-based collections, which are launched twice a year, the group will play upon unique, interesting, or noteworthy elements from the country or city in question to come up with hundreds of names for consideration," says Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, co-founder and artistic director of OPI. While actual OPI naming meetings are top-secret, Weiss-Fischmann says that it's an incredibly fun process with a small group of people.

"The group members individually brainstorm beforehand, so we all go into the naming meeting with our best, funniest, and most creative names to share. It takes a full day to name a collection. The name for a single shade might happen very quickly, or it might be deliberated, shelved, and revisited throughout the course of the day," she explains.

As for the fan-favorite names? "Their favorites are the ones that make them smile or evoke a specific memory or emotion, like 'I'm Not Really a Waitress,' 'You Don't Know Jacques!,' 'I Cannoli Wear OPI,' 'Toucan Do It if You Try,' and 'Lincoln Park After Dark,'" she says. The colors, like their names, are beautiful and unique in their own right.

Essie

Essie Nail Polish in Playdate $9
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According to Essie Weingarten, founder of Essie, the polish names come from unique inspiration, "whether it be a destination, fashion trend, or a pop culture era. These places, people, or moments in time lend themselves to the creative process of naming beloved, fun, and catchy polish shades." For example, the new spring 2016 collection was inspired by Slim Aaron's photograph of Palm Beach. "As soon as winter’s chill is finally gone, spring fever hits and the only cure is a trip to Florida—with fun shades like 'High Class Affair,' 'Lounge Lover,' and 'Sunshine State of Mind,'" she explains.

Trust us, Essie is a heritage brand with a lot of love and heart to it.

Smith & Cult
Smith & Cult Nail Polish in Plastic Beach $18
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According to Dineh Mohajer, co-founder and creative director of Smith & Cult, the brand is based on her very own Diary of a Beauty Junkie. "Coming up with the shade names is one of my favorite parts of the creative process. The names emerge from the entries as they are written so that each shade name in the Nailed and Lip Lacquer collections correlates to a beauty junkie experience. It’s like you’re reading my diary… Oh wait, you are. Thankfully, for your sake, some entries are omitted," she jokes.

Mojaher has three favorite shade names at the moment: "'Birdie Num Num,' an opaque bright turquoise blue nail shade named after Peter Sellers's character in the 1968 film The Party. My dad and I watch it together A LOT. It’s almost funnier to watch his reaction to the film than the film itself. I wish I could teletransport into the past so I could attend the party in The Party; 'City of Compton,' an opaque mod bubble gum–pink nail shade, which reflects my love of a multitude of things, one being N.W.A; and 'Her Name Bubbles,' a lip shade (pop + pink) named after a line delivered by the comedian Craig Robinson in the film Zach and Miri Make a Porno.

I can’t look at him without laughing profusely," she says.

Deborah Lippmann

Deborah Lippmann Nail Polish in P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing) $20
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"When I was getting ready to launch my brand (and) figuring out how to name the shades, I considered the products that I personally buy. For me, as a consumer, I’m extremely visual, but I also found that the name of a shade could make or break whether I bought a product or not. If the name didn’t match my perception of the shade, I would get confused and not buy it," says Deborah Lippmann, founder of Deborah Lippmann nail polish. "I decided to name my shades after song titles because I’m a jazz singer and passionate about music.

I felt strongly that the names should evoke a feeling rather than a specific shade because we all see color differently. These names have resonated in a way that is quite extraordinary: They are fun, kitschy, and if the song has a place in your life, it fosters an emotional connection. Ultimately, whether you know the song or not, the names are just fun!"

As for the naming process? It sounds like our ideal Saturday night: "Sometimes we’ll pop open a bottle of wine and get four or five people around computers looking on iTunes. We’ll also review customer suggestions—so many people will email us song titles for potential colors. While we do have an ongoing list of songs, the color always comes before the name."

What's your favorite nail polish name EVER? Tell us below!

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