Is calling redheads ‘gingers’ an insult or not?

In honour of Ed Sheeran’s Croke Park gig, a Dublin restaurant is offering a discount to ‘gingers’ for one day. Will they turn up?

One of the most famous red heads on the planet rolls into town this weekend for two sell out shows in Croke Park. But it's not just the fans that are benefiting from Ed Sheeran's arrival, one Dublin restaurant, Bread and Bones, is offering 20 per cent off to any "gingers" that cross its threshold.

Surely there’s never been a better time to be a hungry, stereotypical-looking Irish person roaming the streets of Dublin in search of sustenance.

But are the redheads turning up, or could they be put off by the restaurant’s use of the term “ginger” in its promotional material. The word is a divisive one among the approximately 10 per cent of our population that have been blessed with red locks. For many, it’s seen as yet another dig at their minority status.

Hazel Lavery – an accountant in her 20s – is a proud redhead who hates the term “ginger”. “I just think it has a really bad association. Take for example ‘ginger minger’ which is used a lot about red heads and is just a pure insult for us. Other hair colours don’t have to put up with it: blondes are blondes, and you wouldn’t really call someone with brown hair ‘mousey’. Not forgetting the fact that the colour ginger is not actually red, it’s a completely different colour.”


Lavery says she married a redhead who has no issue with the term “ginger”. However, this may be because he is, according to Hazel, in denial about his hair colour. He thinks he’s a brunette. Everybody copes in different ways.

Twenty-five-year-old Stephen McIntyre, a masters student at NUIG, is proud to be called a “ginger”. “I don’t find it in any way offensive. When I was younger I was probably called ginger if somebody was having a dig at me in a jokey way but it never really bothered me. I actually call myself ginger. I think it’s kind of a way to reclaim the word and take it back for myself.”

Julie Nolan, who works as a buyer for a retailer, often suffered as a result being a red-head when she was younger. In school she was bullied for her hair colour – mainly by a fellow redhead whose favourite insult was to call Nolan “ginger”.

“That was a bit of a strange one,” says Nolan. “These days I wouldn’t say that I love the term ginger, but I also don’t find it offensive. If it saw it written somewhere I’d take notice but I guess for marketing purposes, ginger is a much snappier term than redhead.”(Nolan says she’d be happy to take up the 20 per cent discount that her red hair would earn her.)

Bread and Bones restaurant say they mean no offence by using the term “ginger”. “We just took it as fairly common term that is used and thought, ‘why not?’,” says co-owner Jack Fox. “The reaction so far has been good and we have had plenty of interest from red heads today.”

Joleen Cronin, founder of the Irish Red Head Convention, which takes place from August 21st to 23rd in Cork, says: “Personally I wouldn’t find it offensive, though I know a lot of people do. There was a South Park episode a few years ago where it was said that ‘gingers have no soul’, and so from that ginger seemed to be a bad word.

“But at the Irish Red Head Convention we use a lot of ginger puns, we have ginger speed dating, and the band this year is Ginger Nuts . . . We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

And what about the most famous redhead in Dublin weekend, Ed Sheeran, who inspired today's promotion? Well given that his new record label is called Gingerbread Records, we can probably conclude that he doesn't have a difficulty with the term.