Two-Color Tangos

Last week I stopped at a traffic signal and it happened again: I had me a little Christmas moment.  Visions of Santa Claus, sugar plums, and all that. The traffic light is red, you see, but then it changed to green. Combine those colors and presto!  Dave goes all holly/jolly in the head. Can’t really explain it but at least, maybe, a brief bit of Christmas cheer keeps the road rage at bay.

When two colors tango, untold images fill my brain.  Pair up red & green and I’m ready to wrap presents.  Pair up light blue & cream and I’m lounging on a beach in Hawaii, frosty piña colada in hand.  But maybe you’re different.  Maybe you celebrate Hannukah (in which case you should lobby for blue & silver traffic lights).  Or maybe your world of red & green is simply something other than Christmas.  Strawberries.  Tennis courts.  Those colorful maracas you hear a-shake-shakin’ in a Latin band.  A dozen roses.


If we were talking about single colors we’d be back in elementary school, wouldn’t we?  Green as the grass, red as the fire truck, orange as the pumpkin, and so on.  Not a lot of fun in that.  Not to mention, a single color dancing the tango by itself would be awkward.  But two colors?  Now… now we’re getting closer to a barrel of monkeys.

What do you see here?

Psychologists like their Rorschach inkblots well enough, but two-color tangos would be a more interesting reveal.  Tell the patient to close their eyes and concentrate.  Now hold up a card half-white & half-orange and say, “Okay, open your eyes.  What’s the first thing you think of?” Creamsicles.  Blue & yellow card?  Swedish Flag.  Purple & red? Sunset.  You get the idea.  But that’s just me.  My morally straight brain sprints to morally straight images.

A “black-and-white”

Let’s put a thug in the same psychologist’s chair.  He’s got “better things” to do but somehow we’ve convinced him to take the two-color tango test.  He doesn’t even have to concentrate.  Black & white?  The police car headed his direction.  Black & gray?  His favorite handheld weapon.  Black & red?  Brimstone and fire in the afterlife known as Hell.  Creepy, right?  At least you have him in a chair instead of out on the streets.  Might want to summon more psychologists for further evaluation.

My version of bliss

The irony of my thug friend (foe?) is black & red is my favorite tango; more vivid than my red & green Christmases.  I’m a nut for licorice, you see.  Always have been.  Love the whips, twists, shoestrings, Australian, salty, All-Sorts.  You name it as long as it’s black or red.  I prescribed myself thousands of Good & Plenty “pills” as a kid.  I’ve eaten enough black licorice in my life to risk the consequences of this poor fellow’s habit.

[Author’s note: Any licorice with a color other than black or red does not deserve to be called “licorice”. Green Apple?  Blue Raspberry?  Watermelon?  B-L-E-C-H.  Those colors are fully inferior to the candy.  They’re also trying to tango solo, which we’ve already established as awkward.]

“Go Bucs!”

Despite my overconsumption of black & red licorice, live and breathe I continue to do.  And my two-color tango images are unfailingly consistent.  Play me a game of checkers?  Pass the licorice.  Red bell pepper and black olive added to my salad?  Where’s the licorice?  Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football?  Fill the snack bowl with licorice.  Venomous eastern coral snake?  WHOA… hang on now.  No licorice image there, not at all.  More like get me the hell outta my brain.

Before I get the coral snake outta my brain, let me pass along a PSA.  The coral snake and the harmless scarlet king snake look remarkably similar with their bands of black, red, and yellow.  If you come across one of these bad boys, try to remember this little “nursery rhyme”:

  • Red Touch Yellow – Kills a Fellow
  • Red Touch Black – Venom Lack
  • Yellow Touch Red – Soon You’ll Be Dead
  • Red Touch Black – Friend of Jack

Fun, huh?  Better yet just look at the snake’s head.  If it’s black, run away.  FAST.

I planned to finish this post with three-color tangos and the images I came up with there.  After all, traffic lights just as often go from green to yellow to red.  Bell peppers.  Macaws.  Skittles candies (“Taste the Rainbow!”)  But let’s be honest; I don’t have those images at all.  Instead, I’m fully focused on speeding through the intersection before the signal wants me to stop.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

15 thoughts on “Two-Color Tangos”

    1. I believe it about the oral surgery, Neil. Most licorice is chewy enough to rip teeth out by the roots if you so choose. Me, I’ve learned to chew gently (and brush often), so I never, ever have to give up my licorice habit.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My childhood encounters with rattlesnakes (growing up in a narrow canyon where there were many) only stoked my curiosity about all things slithery. I’d look up several species in our World Book encyclopedias and learn everything I could about them. I actually enjoyed seeing them at the zoo. I’ve never come across a coral snake because they weren’t native to California but they still fascinated me, especially side-by-side with the scarlet king snake. I’ve known the poem for a long time. You really only need to remember the first line 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Halfway to Christmas never entered my mind as I wrote this one, Lyssy. Glad I can count on you to remind me of those very important dates 🙂


  2. I remember those Good and Plenty candies, but probably haven’t had any licorice since! It’s not my thing. I had a friend who used to drink licorice tea in order to increase her low blood pressure, which is probably what that guy with the overdosed licorice habit died from.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Licorice tea! Now there’s a spin on licorice I’ve never tried. Probably made with anise. Your mention of Good and Plenty reminded me of their cartoon commercials, with “Choo-Choo Charlie” plugging the candy. He’d shake the box with the rhythm of a steam locomotive. Clever.


  4. This was a fun post Dave. I’m with you on the “real” licorice versus those candy fake licorice. When I was a kid growing up in Canada, my folks made a trip into downtown Oakville occasionally and we stopped at a candy store. Although I was not allowed to eat candy except on special occasions, my parents always bought me a few Scottie dogs and a pipe made out of genuine licorice. I say “genuine” because you’d bite into it and it was a brown color inside. The doggies and pipes were a little on the bitter side to be honest, so likely, since there was no sugar was why I was allowed to eat it. That was my treat and my mom loved the Licorice Allsorts which you could buy loose as well. I don’t remember that rhyme about the snakes – very cute. It could be because I’m Canadian or snakes were not common where I lived (unless they hid pretty well). 🙂

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    1. The pipes are a childhood memory (from the Halloween trick-or-treat bag) – dont really remember the flavor. The Scottish dogs are harder and not as sweet, but I prefer licorice that way. Too much sugar and you lose that wonderful flavor.

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      1. I didn’t know they had the pipes and Scottie dogs here in the States – I thought they were just in Canada. I like the real licorice too Dave – the rest is kid stuff. Though it was a tad tough on the choppers to bite through those pipes. I remember it left a black ring around my mouth when eating the pipes and my mom would take out her Kleenex and spit on a little (eww) and wipe my mouth when I was really young … the memories you dredge up sometimes.


  5. If you’ve ever been to a Cost Plus World Market, Linda, they have an impressive selection of international foods, including a wide variety of licorice from Europe and Asia. It’s one of the few places I know where I can get Scottie Dogs and salted licorice.


  6. I experience some similar things. Red / green are Christmas, so long as they are the right red and green. Many of mine are commercial products/logos. Blue/orange – Gulf oil and the race cars they used to sponsor. Green/yellow are John Deere tractors. Green/white is the old Sinclair Oil dinosaur signs. Dark brown/tan – a pint of Guinness in a glass.
    The only 3 way that really registers is red/yellow/blue – Wonder Bread.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That’d be a fun trivia game, J.P. What products come to mind when certain color combinations are mentioned? Definitely John Deere w/ the green/yellow (and tractor manufacturers have a color competition all their own). And those Wonder Bread dots – of course!


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