'ginger' hair [acceptable? pejorative?]

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saninha

Member
Potuguese
A student asked me if the vocabulary ginger could be used to refer to a person who has the hair "red" and if so is pejorative or not cause he has listened to it when watching a movie. I couldn't find this use in the dictionary
thanks
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Yes, "a ginger" is a person with red hair, and the term is regarded as pejorative.

    I suggest you use Goggle to search for "ginger jokes."
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    A student asked me if the vocabulary ginger could be used to refer to a person who has the hair "red" ...
    In BE, yes, as posted above. It isn't used in this sense in AE.

    By the way, I'd write "...who has red hair." The word "red" is an adjective. It modifies the noun "hair." There is no need for a more complex structure.
     

    mr cat

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I wouldn't personally say ginger was pejorative, I've had friends whose nicknames were ginger without any hint of insult. If the colour of your hair is ginger why would you get upset? However I do know of people who (often with self-deprecating wit) refer to themselves as having auburn hair or they are strawberry blonde as, no doubt, ginger isn't the most popular of colours. So, saninha, if you don't know someone very well say that they have lovely red hair!
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "Ginger" as an adjective to describe a hair color is used in AE, and I would never say otherwise. That's what most of the UD entries are about, but that's not what this thread is about. Few of them refer to the use of "ginger" as a noun to refer to a person who has red hair. And we don't know who wrote those entries, do we? Or what sort of English they speak?
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    As another AE speaker, I have to say that the entire use of "ginger" as a pejorative word is completely unfamiliar to me. I have heard it used as "He has a lot of ginger," meaning "he is a lively, energetic person," but that is hardly pejorative and refers to the spice, rather than the color. If it is a recent slang usage, I may be excused because of my advanced age. :)
     

    DocPenfro

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It is inadvisable to use the expression "He's (a) ginger". Cockney rhyming slang: ginger beer = queer, i.e. homosexual. I don't know whether this slang is still in use in England but it is safer and more usual to refer to people with ginger hair as 'redheads', which carries no negative connotations.
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Rhyming slang certainly leaves many pitfalls for us; poor, benighted souls from the provinces that we are. :)

    EDIT: By the way; welcome to the forum, DocPenfro.
     
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    aes_uk

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In BE, describing someone's hair as "ginger" does not have to be pejorative - it could just mean that their hair is red. However, it depends very much on how it is said and how well you know the person (as it could be said mockingly/jokingly but not in a nasty way). Using ginger as a noun - i.e. calling someone a "ginger" - is generally pejorative. Just like there are many jokes about "dumb blondes", there are also jokes about "gingers". As a rule of thumb, I would generally avoid saying "ginger" and use "red" just because "red" is a nicer way to describe the colour and won't cause any offence in any situation.
     

    Adge

    Senior Member
    USA- English (Southern)
    "Ginger" can definitely be used in a pejorative manner in the US. As far I can remember, in my circles in started around the time of the South Park "gingers have no souls" bit referenced above. I agree with aes_uk that you should avoid calling someone a ginger unless you know the person really well and they know you're joking. Otherwise, the neutral term in the US is "redhead."
     
    This use of "ginger" - both as the neutral adjective "ginger-haired" and the pejorative noun "ginger" - is fairly new in AmE, at least I think it is. It still sounds a bit British to my ears, maybe because I first heard it from British sources, but it has recently become widespread in the US. This is a common phenomenon today: Expressions that used to be mostly or entirely BE spread quickly in the US because of the internet, which gives access to many British sources of news and entertainment (which in turn often develop a cult following among Americans) and brings together BE and AmE speakers in various forums (like this one). Many Americans love picking up British expressions - sometimes without fully understanding them - and trans-Atlantic spread is inevitable.

    Nowadays, I think it's probably safest to assume that pejorative words in BE are known to Americans as well and avoid their use unless you're very sure of your command of current AmE. The reverse is probably also true.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Put me in the column of AE speakers who've never heard anyone referred to as "a ginger" and never heard it, as a nickname, used pejoratively. It's a fairly common nickname for "Virginia". The most famous Ginger in the US was certainly the widely admired dancer and actress Ginger Rogers.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    In BE, describing someone's hair as "ginger" does not have to be pejorative - it could just mean that their hair is red. However, it depends very much on how it is said and how well you know the person (as it could be said mockingly/jokingly but not in a nasty way). Using ginger as a noun - i.e. calling someone a "ginger" - is generally pejorative. Just like there are many jokes about "dumb blondes", there are also jokes about "gingers". As a rule of thumb, I would generally avoid saying "ginger" and use "red" just because "red" is a nicer way to describe the colour and won't cause any offence in any situation.
    Just to say - I agree with aes_uk on all counts:).
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    As far I can remember, in my circles in started around the time of the South Park "gingers have no souls" bit referenced above.
    I agree with this. As far as I know, the South Park episode basically introduced "ginger" into American English. The South Park episode aired Nov 9, 2005 and the first Urban Dictionary entry is from Nov 10, 2005. I don't think it's a coincidence. ;)
     

    Jeyrem

    Member
    Francais
    I agree with this. As far as I know, the South Park episode basically introduced "ginger" into American English. The South Park episode aired Nov 9, 2005 and the first Urban Dictionary entry is from Nov 10, 2005. I don't think it's a coincidence. ;)
    You forgot that the term ginger was also introduced to the world in the 90's and became famous with Geri Halliwell from Spice Girls.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    You forgot that the term ginger was also introduced to the world in the 90's and became famous with Geri Halliwell from Spice Girls.
    It wasn't introduced to the world in the 90s: it's been around for a long, long time. As far as I'm concerned the most famous 'Ginger' was Ginger Rogers, the US dancer.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I still don't think it's widespread, or at least, deeply-rooted in the U.S. Redhead is the standard term. Ginger is known by some people, particularly because of the South Park episode, but it hasn't become an everyday word from everything I can see. The go-to word is still redhead by a mile.

    Sites like this use red, when contrasting with blonde, brown, brunette, black, etc.
    The Connection Between Hair Color and Personality
    What is Your Hair Personality?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    'Redhead' is standard in BE too. I personally agree with this:
    In BE, describing someone's hair as "ginger" does not have to be pejorative - it could just mean that their hair is red. However, it depends very much on how it is said and how well you know the person (as it could be said mockingly/jokingly but not in a nasty way). Using ginger as a noun - i.e. calling someone a "ginger" - is generally pejorative. Just like there are many jokes about "dumb blondes", there are also jokes about "gingers". As a rule of thumb, I would generally avoid saying "ginger" and use "red" just because "red" is a nicer way to describe the colour and won't cause any offence in any situation.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think the 'red' words are perfectly acceptable.
    Do not use 'ginger' unless you yourself are red-haired. All my long life, 'ginger' has been somewhat pejorative if only because it's associated, idiotically of course, with undesirable qualities such as having a very bad temper and strong emotions, above all, rebels, not wanting to be ruled by the English.

    Even worse, in some contexts, it can verge on racist, especially Irish, although in fact the Scots have a higher percentage than the Irish. Let's just say 'Celtic peoples', traditionally derided as inferior by 'the English'.

    Less than 2% of the world's population have red hair. That's approximately 140 million people. Scotland boasts the highest percentage of natural redheads, with 13% (40% might carry the gene there) while Ireland comes in second with 10%.
     
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    pyro-alchemist

    New Member
    English - US Midwest
    I am a 71 year old (former) redhead and don't understand how ginger ever got associated red hair. Ginger is not reddish at all. Perhaps we should call blonds gingersginger.jpg
     
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