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Encyclopedia > Red herring
Look up red herring in
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Red herring is a metaphor for a diversion or distraction from an original objective. An example can be found in academic examinations, particularly in mathematics and physical sciences. In some questions, information may be provided which is not necessary to solve the given problem. The presence of extraneous data often causes those taking the exam to spend too much time on the question, reducing the time given to other problems and potentially lowering the resulting score. Red herrings are frequently used in literature and cinema mysteries, where a character is presented to make the reader/viewer believe he/she is the perpetrator, when in reality it is someone far less suspicious. Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 150 languages. ... Look up metaphor in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In the terminology of the DEA, diversion is the use of prescription drugs for recreational purposes. ... Distraction is also a television game show: Distraction (game show) Distraction is the diverting of the attention of an individual or group from the chosen object of attention onto the source of distraction. ... Euclid, Greek mathematician, 3rd century BC, as imagined by by Raphael in this detail from The School of Athens. ... Physical science is the branch of science including chemistry and physics, usually contrasted with the social sciences and sometimes including and sometimes contrasted with natural or biological science. ...


The phrase may relate to saving a hunted fox by dragging a smoked herring across its trail. This act would create a diversion through the strong smell of kippers. The Oxford English Dictionary records its first written use occurring in 1686 in this context: "To draw a red herring across the track". Michael Quinion says it is unlikely that any such act ever occured.[1] Kippered herring. ... The Oxford English Dictionary print set The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a dictionary published by the Oxford University Press (OUP), and is the most successful dictionary of the English language, (not to be confused with the one-volume Oxford Dictionary of English, formerly New Oxford Dictionary of English, of... Michael Quinion in his office Michael Quinion is the author and creator the the site World Wide Words. ...

The use of a red herring in this way is described by James Rodwell in 1863 book against the rat. Here he describes the red herring as a "kind of witch", which when dragged along the floor to make a scented trail, is a method "commonly used for charming rats" and removing them from certain places (pp 194).


  1. ^ Quinion, Michael (1996-08-03). The Lure of the Red Herring. World Wide Words. Retrieved on 2007-06-12. “In the half dozen books on aspects of the history of fox hunting I have searched out, there is not one reference to the use of a red herring to lay a false scent”

Michael Quinion in his office Michael Quinion is the author and creator the the site World Wide Words. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era. ... is the 163rd day of the year (164th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...


In the late 1980's/early 1990's children's television show, A Pup Named Scooby Doo, a character known as Red Herring would often be purported as the perpetrator of whatever mystery that the Scooby Doo Gang encountered.

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