"red herring" expression--Treatment by Robert Scott Ross

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Fri Oct 3 16:22:13 UTC 2008

Meriam Webster's interesting series "M-W's Word of the Day" treats "red
herring" today. By coincidence, an article on this expression appears in
the latest issue of Comments on Etymology, which I'm mailing out today.
The article is by Robert Scott Ross:  "Popularization of 'red
herring' by English political agitator William Cobbett."
(Comments on Etymology, vol. 38, no. 1-2, Oct./Nov. 2008, pp. 62-69.)

Gerald Cohen

> ----------
> From:         word at m-w.com
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> Sent:         Friday, October 07030820082008 3:32
> To:   Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> Subject:      red herring: M-W's Word of the Day
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> Explore Merriam-Webster's new Learner's Dictionary Online for a free online dictionary, audio pronunciations, custom study lists and interactive exercises.
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> The Word of the Day for October 3 is:
> red herring   \RED-HERR-ing\   noun
>      1 : a herring cured by salting and slow smoking to a dark brown color
>     *2 : something that distracts attention from the real issue
> Example sentence:
>      The editorial asserts that the hoopla over the proposed new convention center is a red herring, deflecting attention from the mayor's failure to resolve the budgetary crisis.
> Did you know?
>      Believe it or not, "red herring" has as much to do with hunting dogs as with brightly colored fish. Here's how: A herring is a soft-finned bony fish. People who like to eat herring have long preserved them by salting and slowly smoking them. That process makes a herring turn red or dark brown -- and gives them a very strong smell. Dogs love to sniff such smelly treats, a fact that makes the fish a perfect diversion for anyone trying to distract hunting dogs from the trail of their quarry. The practice of using preserved fish to confuse hunting dogs led to the use of the term "red herring" for anything that diverts attention from the issue at hand.
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