Ginger and Re: Gingerism, gingerphobia

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Aug 11 18:57:15 UTC 2013

On Aug 11, 2013, at 12:37 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:

> I received a kind e-mail this morning saying Nexis has "gingerism" to 1998 apparently of British origin.
> Wiktionary ( has it to 1997 and labels it British.
> My earliest recollection of hearing the word "ginger" is within the past five years

I think I encountered "ginger" as a color term for cats (the ones we call orange) before encountering it for redheads (i.e. humans), either from British neighbors or novelists.

> , so I suspect that "ginger" itself entered general American English with the South Park episode "Ginger Kids" ( in 2005, though maybe I've just been out of the loop.
> Gingerism/gingerphobia is interesting because AFAIK, unlike racism and homophobia, nobody actually believes that people with red hair are actually different, other than the red hair itself (and perhaps accompanying sensitive skin). Nevertheless, chronicles cases of gingerism, including at least one that seems to genuinely be fueled by nonginger supremacism (the attacker was drunk at the time, "Random Assault for Being Ginger-haired").

cf. "X beat Y like a red-headed stepchild", with "stepchild" presumably standing for "bastard"--one with the same red hair as X's milkman.  Not in good fun in that case.


> My grandmother certainly suffered a great deal of taunting due to her red hair as a child that she never got over completely; taunters can almost never be held accountable because people will simply say it was "in good fun."
> Benjamin Barrett
> Seattle, WA
> Learn Ainu!
> On Aug 11, 2013, at 1:46 AM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at> wrote:
>> In discussing the Ginger Pride Walk, Shawn Hitchins is quoted as saying, =
>> "Even although it isn't a real word, gingerism exists and bullying =
>> exists and you can't deny that kids are being subjected to taunts or =
>> being bullied in schools just for having red hair." =
>> (
>> On Google, that unreal word gets 41K raw hits.
>> Also worthy of note is "gingerphobia," which looks like it's coined =
>> based on "homophobia."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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