Is it a "swatch of color" or a "swath of color"? Neither: it's a fart

December 10 | offbeatbride
Photo by Sheila Simmington.
Original photo by Sheila Simmington.
How about a little glimpse into our editorial process?

Each week, my editors write, produce, and edit the posts for the following week. Thursday evening, our Copyeditor Caroline comes in with her linguistic riding crop and works her magic. Then Friday morning I come in with my Scary Big Red Editorial Pen Of Doom and give the final revisions and publication sign-offs.

On Stephanie's post today about rainbow socks, her original text read: "wearing socks is an easy way to add a swatch of color to your wedding outfit."

Using our editorial lingo (where the = sign means "change this to this"), I came in and offered this edit:

swatch of color = swath of color

But Stephanie pushed back:

I actually had swath first, and then I looked up both the definitions and changed it:

swath
swäTH,swôTH/Submit
noun
1.
a row or line of grass, grain, or other crop as it lies when mown or reaped.
2.
a broad strip or area of something.
"vast swaths of countryside"

swatch
a sample piece (as of fabric) or a collection of samples
b : a characteristic specimen
2

patch

3

a small collection

I'm cool either way, but since swatch is about fabric and swath isn't, that's why I went that way.

But (nail-biter!) I was not swayed:

I think swath is more correct, and is definitely the more common usage according to google:
"swatch of color" = 71,100 results
"swath of color" = 763,000 results

But either way, it's sort of a trite expression and we could have WAY more fun with it and make it way more offbeat voice:
"a sneaky explosion of color"
"a eye-ball blasting peek of color"
"a sneaky striped full-spectrum of awesomess"
"a mind-bending fart of colortastic fuck-yeahness"
etc.

For the record, Megan was firmly on "Team Swatch," but since I'm the boss, Stephanie opted to just use my final and most hyperbolic suggestion… which is why Offbeat Bride is now the wedding blog with a post about farting rainbow socks. (Naturally, when it came to reader disappointment in the post, it had nothing to do with the swatch, swath, or farts.)

This is something I actually do pretty frequently: rather than grind down to a who's right/who's wrong editorial debate, I'd rather just push everyone to creatively write around it. Why debate which overused idiom is more accurate and less confusing? Instead, let's just make up a whole new ridiculous descriptor that is going to have exactly ZERO results on Google, pushes the limits of good taste, and avoids anyone being wrong.

  1. "Swath of colour" is the idiom. It's meant to convey that you've applied the colour with a bit of a flourish, like an overenthusiastic painter or a woman dancing about her living room with a set of drapes in some 1950s film.

    Many brides will be familiar with "colour swatches", scraps of fabric sent to them by dressmakers to show the true, exact shade of the material. Swatches are generally much too small to wear as anything but a set of pasties.

    A "fart of colour" is when a unicorn has eaten too many sprinkles and so she trots through your event, breaking magical wind wherever her hooves carry her.

    29 agree
  2. I agree that "swath" is the phrase, but I think of that as something bigger (a "broad strip or area" of color) and something small like rainbow socks as a "pop" or "touch" of color… but fart works just as well 😉

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