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Is it acceptable to use "le couleur" in any situation except for when referring to a certain Canadian pop band?


I own a fountain pen ink called Noodler's Le Couleur Royale. This is what is written on the box. However also on the box there is written LaCoR0. To make things even more irritating, when I googled "le couleur" I got served with a pop band named as such that I didn't know even existed.

On Noodler's website the ink is listed as La Couleur Royale.

I am at a loss. Couleur is feminine, thus "la" is the appropriate article, however the colour is blue so I assumed that Noodler's made an intentional misspell of the article (le bleu is the correct formulation as far as I know), however the website has the grammatically correct article. About the band I don't know, overall it's very confusing.

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    This question is based on a false premise. The actual name is “La Couleur Royale” and the variant with “le” only appears with typo frequency on Google. This is a non-French-speaking company marketing to a non-French-speaking audience, but they still got the spelling right. No native speaker would write “le couleur royale” except as a typo: the gender of common nouns is very ingrained. By the way “royale” is feminine: with a masculine noun, it would be e.g. “le bleur royal”. Commented Jan 30 at 21:17
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    A cultural note: this shade of blue is also known in France as royal blue (at least I think it's the same shade), but “the royal color” in France would be white. Commented Jan 30 at 21:21
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    Meanwhile, a new restaurant opened down the street from me called "La Ciel". Sigh...
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Jan 30 at 23:11
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    @LukeSawczak funny enough, if a restaurant (masculine) was given the name "couleur royale", then it would be correct to refer to it as "Le couleur royale". Commented Jan 31 at 10:56
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    @DamienD Good point. And maybe this restaurant is really a boutique of sorts :)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Jan 31 at 12:14

6 Answers 6

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Is it acceptable to use "le couleur" in any situation except for when referring to a certain Canadian pop band?

Even though this was most likely a typo and there is no doubt that the gender of couleur is indeed feminine today, this is not the end of the story:

Remarque Couleur est masculin dans ces locutions elliptiques, le couleur de feu, le couleur de rose, de chair, de citron, etc... Ce ruban est d'un beau couleur de feu (Ac. 1835, 1878). (TLFi)

Il est masculin dans ces locutions elliptiques, Le couleur de feu, le couleur de rose, de chair, de citron, etc., Ce qui a la couleur du feu, de la rose, etc. Ce ruban est d’un beau couleur de feu. (Ac.7)

Littré provides examples, such as La Fontaine ("Le plumage tire sur le couleur de rose vers la racine") and Molière ("Je vous trouve les lèvres d'un couleur de feu surprenant"). LBU § 459 H, says it's rare after the 17th, but Apollinaire still manages to use it in Le Musicien de Saint-Merry "[...] et ce couleur de fraise sur les joues". So the answer is you may find it in classical French literature and you may want to imitate this. Beyond quirkiness there is knowledge.

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    This is astonishing info, thank you so much for sharing the knowledge. I honestly thought it was just a typo but the fact that there is more to it fascinates me.
    – Kiku
    Commented Jan 31 at 7:22
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    @Kiku The masculine is now unrecognizable for contemporary French people. The other French people on this thread, like me, immediately assume it's a typo. In other cases ("le grand affaire"), we even make fun of these foreign product names which use "le" instead of "la" (they want to sound fancy, but they make a mistake).
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 31 at 15:53
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    @Kiku You're welcome! Would I have seen this in La Fontaine or Molière etc. I would have thought it was just a typo in the edition but therein lies the mistake, assuming what is now to have always been, that native speakers assumptions is the end of it, and not researching this further. In that sense this Q&A serves as a cautionary tale and any unqualified answer stating this is mistake is inaccurate. Commented Jan 31 at 23:56
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French here. This could be a joke / pun between:

  • La couleur = the color

  • "Le" couleur = quelque chose qui coule = something that "flows"

More precisely : "Couler" is a very common verb meaning "to flow", "to pour" (and also "to sink"). You can, in French, create nouns of people/things that do this action by adding the suffix -eur. Example:

  • sonner (=to ring) : "le sonneur" (de cloches) (=the man who rings bells in churches, at the time it was non-automatic)

  • manger (=to eat) : "le mangeur" : this one is very frequent : "- Tu as encore faim ? - Oh, oui, je suis un gros mangeur !"

  • développer : "le développeur" : someone who develops something (similar in English: software developer)

And now:

  • couleur : quelque chose/quelqu'un qui coule = someone/something that flows/pours.

So the fountain pen ink is actually something that flows, so it's "le couleur"!

(It is nearly never used as a word in a conversation, but it is technically correct. It perfectly works as the pun with la couleur / le couleur.)

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    There is indeed a recognised definition for this masculine couleur, namely a foundry caster, see this Québecois webpage (with the confusing illustration of "couleur de plomb" which means lead caster in the masculine and * lead colour* in the feminine. Commented Feb 1 at 13:36
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    Nope. It wouldn't be spelled « royale » if it was the case. Commented Feb 1 at 16:26
  • "le couleur" could also mean someone who single-handedly wins with someone else. "Le couleur du PSG était Jean-Paul, who effortlessly shot 17 goals" (sorry for PSG fans, I do not follow football)
    – WoJ
    Commented Feb 2 at 11:56
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This is a typo.

"Couleur" is feminine. Nobody would write or say "le couleur" unless either:

  • they are not that fluent in French (that's the kind of mistake even French children don't make: you have to come from another language)
  • they are trying to sound quirky (like that Canadian band may be)
  • they made a typo

In your context what makes the most sense is a typo.

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    A fourth possibility is that "couleur" is a complément du nom, and the nom principal is unspoken. For instance, "Le stylo couleur" -> "Le couleur". Similarly you could say "La diésel" when talking about a car with a diésel engine, even though diésel is masculine, because "voiture" is feminine. (But all this is a bit moot because the expression mentioned by the OP was "Le couleur royale", which is twice wrong since "le" and "royale" are not accordés)
    – Stef
    Commented Jan 31 at 12:54
  • Merci beaucoup, Stef, ça c'est une bonne prise là. Pardonnez aussi mon français s'il vous plaît, ce n'est pas ma langue maternelle.
    – Kiku
    Commented Jan 31 at 13:02
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I think the confusion comes from this image where it looks a lot like there's a "Le" instead of a "La".

Either it's a mistake, or the font is really weird and the "a" looks too much like an "e". I would say it's a "typo" (if that can be said for handwriting) by someone who doesn't speak French, or not fluently at least (since the brand is based in the US).

And to be clear, no it's not acceptable to say "Le couleur", it's clearly a mistake.

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In this case, it's an error of some kind.

But even with poems aside, "Le Couleur Royale" could be correct. If "Couleur Royale" is the proper noun of some masculine thing, then "Le" is the correct definite article for it.

For instance, I initially thought the question related to a pen (masculine "stylo"), instead of the ink (feminine "encre"). If the name of the pen was "Couleur Royale" or "Le Couleur Royale" then this would be correct.

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It is not an error. The pen is masculine «le stylo» and «Le Couleur royale» simply means «le stylo appelé “Couleur royale”» and that explains also the feminine gender of the adjective «royale».

It is very common in French to use the gender of a missing noun for the adjective. For example, in Brest there is a bistro called «Le gueule de bois» meaning «Le (bistro appelé) gueule de bois». Similarly when you order a «café noisette» as «noisette» you will say «un noisette», meaning «un café noisette».

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