Colourful language

I saw this lovely shop in Delft. It’s called De Goedkoope, Verf Winkel, W. Verbeek, which translates – rather unromantically – as The Cheap Paint Shop, owner W. Verbeek. Founded in 1881, the shop remains a family business that makes and sells paints, pigments and other art and decorating supplies. Inside, you encounter the perfumed paraphernalia of visual cooking – vats, powders, brushes, stirrers, tins, syrups, essences – along with some lovely lettering and type design. There are more photographs of the shop over on my flickr site.

I was rather taken with a poem they have in the window – a characterful piece of DIY brand writing that says so much about the history of the shop and the attitude of its owners. I imagine one of the modern Verbeeks sitting down to write this, their hands still stained from a hard day’s pursuit of the perfect colour. I love the final line – can’t imagine many corporations having the confidence to make such a claim. Here are the words:

The family Verbeek is here, foremost, to serve you,

So please don’t let waiting your turn unnerve you!

What you choose will be up on your walls forever —

So rush, haste and impatience are useful…. Never.

They put their whole hearts in their work, it’s clear —

And Delft is more lovely because they are here.

Some more colourful language is to be found when you visit the shop’s website. Here’s my simplified (and probably simplistic) edit of a basic translation – I’m sure the original is far more rich, nuanced and bawdy:

If the majestic plane trees of Delft could talk, they would tell wonderful stories… About the farmers on Thursday, clapping and herding their cows and sheep to the market. About the inescapable stink that rises from the thick layer of straw and shit on the roads. About the lascivious, short-skirted girls from the treacle factory, who call out to the horny men passing by… And about the heady smell of linseed oil, turpentine and beeswax that wafts out into the square when the door of ‘the cheap paint shop’ is open.


This entry was posted in Art, Brand, Business, Design, History, Photography, Poetry, Tone of voice, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted 21/06/2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Lovely post. I wonder how many brands who claim to seek a unique or distinctive ‘brand voice’ would be willing to use many of the words in that extract. Individuality is as individuality does.

  2. Posted 21/06/2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Tom.
    Yes, I bet there’s lots in that poem that would be killed off by yer average tone of voice guidelines rulebook. I can just hear a head of verbal identity saying ‘Let’s modify line two – we don’t want people to think they might have to wait.. And while we’re at it, could that last line say ‘And Delft – together with the surrounding catchment area, including Rotterdam and Den Haag – is more lovely for it. In our opinion*’.
    * Added by legal team.

  3. Gary Richards
    Posted 23/06/2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Like it!

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