Am I a redhead, or a ginger? A brace of questions I find myself confronted by in these modern times of multi-channel social networking, on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pheed et al.
Personally, I feel that both are interchangeable, and had originally thought ginger to be a uniquely British turn of phrase to describe my pale skin, freckled body and hair colour. However, based on my experiences of striving to spread gingerlove globally, the reality, I discovered, is quite different.
In Spain, we’d be referred to as a ‘Pelirrojo’ or ‘Pelirroja’ – typically lyrical and pleasing to the ear, as befits such a beautiful language. The Portuguese talk about ‘ruivas and ruivos’- girls and boys, whilst in Holland you can call yourself a ‘Rood Boy’ or ‘Rood Girl’ without damning yourself to a teenage life of Asbos and GCSE resits. Travel further afield to Australia, and you could be ‘rusty’, ‘bluey’ or, possibly my favourite, ‘ranga’. This ginger boy loves orangutans and finds the notion of being compared to one positive – perhaps the opposite to how many Australian redheads feel.
Spread gingerlove globally
But what of the ginger vs. redhead debate? Let’s look at redhead first, as for some this term is a euphemism for ginger.
My hair isn’t anything like red, yet, I accept I am a redhead. Red is the colour of a can of coke, of tomato ketchup or blood. Red represents danger or a warning – think traffic lights. So strictly speaking, should we really be called redheads, when, for some, our hair is kind of orange? And what exactly is strawberry blonde other than a euphemism for gingerness that sits on the fence of this obscure yet, to those it affects, emotive debate?
Ginger has had, for some, a very negative vibe, but I believe that’s because it’s often been used in partnership with an insult, a ginger joke or with a negative intention. Throughout the past twelve months or so of being a GWA, I’ve discovered that many ginger-haired people are very proud and happy to refer themselves as ginger. We’ve sold our fun T-shirt designs into twenty US states, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Finland, France, Holland, Germany, Portugal and all over the UK, and clearly those people are comfortable with defining themselves by “the G word.”
There’s an equally determined group of people all over the world who reject ginger in favour exclusively of being redheads. They say that ginger, the root that helps add flavour to some of my favourite cuisine, is kind of brown on the outside and yellow on the inside.
What is evident, is that this debate between redheaded, ginger-haired Roodboys and Roodgirl rangas, polarises opinion equally as much as the whole gingerlove vs. ignorant haters of our global community. Social networking illustrates that, like marmite, the world at large either reveres gingers for their beauty or terrorises us for our uniqueness and sense of otherness.
Tim Minchin sings that ‘Only A Ginger Can Call Another Ginger, Ginger’, and I know his tongue is as firmly in his cheek as mine has been since I started creating gingers. I’ll take being called a ginger or a redhead from anyone because I’m comfortable with both.
Just please don’t encourage me to fulfill the fiery stereotype by qualifying the word ginger with an insult, a poorly thought out joke or, most annoyingly, the soul thing. I’ll tell you that you’re wrong, and will merely reiterate that we could have More Soul Than Motown, as proven by Ed Sheeran, Adele, Katy B and so on.
The revolution might not be televised, but it will have pale skin, freckles and the soundtrack will be MOGO – Music Of Ginger Origin.
As Roger Daltrey may have sung had his parents blessed him genetically with MC1R:
People try to put us down,
Talking about my ginger nation.
Just because our hair ain’t brown,
Talking about my ginger nation.
Keep Pale And Freckle On.
By Barry Singleton, creator of www.gingerwithattitude.com/