Orange vs. Orange

This is not a review of the book A Clockwork Orange.

I read that book recently, and the first thing I realized, upon reading the introduction, was that my entire life I have misunderstood the title. It is not “a clockwork orange”, as in the color; it is “a clockwork orange”, as in the fruit. It is not a clockwork that is orange, it is an orange that is clockwork. These two things are radically different, but someone aware of only the title of the book and not of the title’s meaning could easily confuse them.

Though obviously it has no meaning for the actual book A Clockwork Orange, I somewhat prefer my version of the title. There is something striking about it – for one, since its denotation is identical to that of “an orange clockwork”, but it is not “an orange clockwork”, it places an intriguing emphasis on “orange” rather than “clockwork” – the focus is not on the fact that it is a clockwork , but on the fact that this clockwork is orange.

What would it mean to have something be orange whose definition was the following?

  1. A mechanism powered by a coiled spring and regulated by some form of escapement; the power is transmitted through toothed gearwheels and used to drive a mechanical clock, toy, or other device.

I have no idea. I do know that it seems to me to be an interesting image, and an interesting turn of phrase. But, since there is a book titled “A Clockwork Orange” as in the fruit, we will most likely never see “a clockwork orange” as in the color used anywhere, for anything. Only one of those phrases can be prominent, for once one of them is, the other will always be seen as a play-on-words, a parody of the other, not an actual phrase to be used in anything serious. So “a clockwork orange” as in the color will never be seen, anywhere. Perhaps (though probably not) “a clockwork red” or “a clockwork purple” – but never “a clockwork orange”.

Oh well.

Language is funny sometimes.


One Response to Orange vs. Orange

  1. Mars says:

    A Clockwork Orange was used as a nickname/compliment/description for the Dutch football (soccer) team in the 1970s. There it definitely referred to the orange team color (as well as the quality of their game).

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