We decided to get our teeth stuck into some full-on investigative research to find out where the term ‘ginger’ comes from when referring to someone with red hair.
So, to settle the score once and for all:
Did you know that there is evidence in old pieces of literature that show that the term ‘ginger’ was first used to describe people with blonde hair…? Yes, we’re serious. In many books, dating back to the 19th century, authors speak of the sun being ‘ginger’! This comes from a reference towards the ginger root being sold at markets, eventually turning yellow.
A lot of speculation has simply put the ‘Ginger’ nickname down to ginger root, used in cooking to give it a bit of a kick. Some think this is because redheads tend to have a fiery temper and can pack a punch (not always literally). But, we think this can’t be the sole reason why we’re called ‘Gingers’, if at all.
Another theory is that those with red hair are called ‘Gingers’ thanks to ginger-flavoured food, which tend to show an auburn, reddish tinge: ginger cake, gingerbread, and ginger snaps.
However, this is where it gets really interesting… Some people argue that the term ‘ginger’ to describe redheads was coined all the way back in the 1700s to describe cockerels; and it wasn’t until the 1800s that the humans were described as ‘ginger’!
But wait for it… if it can’t get any more random, linguists and historians argue that the term ‘ginger’ was used to describe the colour of fighting cockerels – a popular sport in France at the time.
And there is some proof to this. The earliest dictionary that has the term ‘ginger’ in it was written by Francis Grose in 1785. The definition for ‘ginger’ is written as, “GINGER PATED or GINGER HACKLED: red haired, a term borrowed from the cock pit, where red cocks are called gingers”.
But, others still believe that the ‘Ginger’ nickname originated earlier than the 1700s.
Rumour has it that the term ‘ginger’ describes redheads because of the red ginger plant that has a red flower on top. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain occupied parts of Malaysia, home to the Red Ginger plant.
But no, this flower is not the same as the ginger root that is often used in cooking and baking.
Beautifully bright as a beacon, this fiery-headed plant caught the attention of many visitors to the country and has been cited as one of the first instances of redheads being called ‘Gingers’.
Some other theories suggest that the term ‘ginger’ became more popular after the South Park episode that was dedicated to redhead stereotypes.
And it’s not just based on theories, it’s not necessarily official, but here is the Urban Dictionary’s definition of ‘Gingers’:
That’s what we’re working with. Yeah, I know. Let’s not get hung up on that one.
In the South Park episode, Cartman has an irrational fear about children with ginger hair – telling the audience and other characters that people with red hair, pale skin, and freckles have a case of “gingervitis”.
Jokes like these can be hugely detrimental to people with red hair, and it also makes sense to why many redheads are offended by the term ‘ginger’.
But who wouldn’t want a case of “gingervitis”? Because we all know it’s a blessing to be born with the rarest natural hair colour in the world!