2 Jan 2021
Listening to some cricket commentary on the tv yesterday, I heard the commentator say that one of the players was looking “a little bit ginger”. I knew what he was suggesting – that the player looked a little bit constricted in his movement, possibly carrying an injury. But given my recent reading on the origins of words, I thought I’d have a bit of a read on the origins of this phrase.
And boy did I open a can of worms!
The first 50-100 websites I found were full of self important statements about why you should not refer to red-headed people as gingers. Lots and LOTS of websites. I tried rephrasing my question a number of times – moving a bit ginger, acting a bit ginger, looking a bit ginger, looking ginger/sport, ginger sport injury, etc.
Nope. Just constant non stop website knuckle-wrapping for daring to hint that anyone, sportsperson or not, should be termed ginger purely because of his or her hair colour. But they then went on, mind you, to tell me about times red headed sports people got injured.
I did, of course, eventually find the reference I was looking for – and the word I needed was gingerly, not ginger. According to a trusted source (the internet),
“Before it came to mean “extremely cautiously” in 1600, gingerly meant “elegantly, daintily.” In fact, it stems from the Latin word gentius, meaning “(well)-born.” But today it has less to do with elegance and more to do with a delicate touch, usually used to avoid hurting something or someone.”
So there we go. Gilly commentating a cricket match just abbreviated “gingerly” as “ginger”.
Fair enough then. The player wasn’t red headed, not even a hint of strawberry blonde. Just extremely cautious. In actual fact I think the commentator had more right to the red hair appellation than the player.
It reminded me of other things I’d read about strange political correctness. Obviously lately there were a whole pile of movies and tv shows that with modern sensitivities would be deemed to be racist or xenophobic or sexist or whatever, and there’s a really big can of worms that will be opened if you dare to say you enjoyed watching Gone with the Wind, or Faulty Towers.
But I read something recently about songs on certain US radio stations that were banned following the Sept 11 attacks. Songs such as “Highway to Hell”, “Shot down in flames”, “Smooth criminal”, “Lucy in the sky with diamonds”, “Mack the Knife”, “Only the good die young” – among many others – including “What a wonderful world”!!! were deemed to be ‘lyrically questionable’, and may offend people.
There’s always a time lag after a tragic event of some sort, before comedians can get away with telling jokes relating to the event. Their phrase “Too soon???” is usually more of the joke than the actual joke itself.
How sensitive are we? Too sensitive that a red headed person may take offence if someone suggests that a cricketer is looking “a bit ginger”?