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Gingers: The Legends, The Science

Gingers. We all know one, maybe fear one, or in my case, are one.  The term ginger has been commonplace in the UK for a long time, but has only just picked up steam here in the US and,  I think I can pin point the exact point in time when that happened. It would be November 9, 2005. Or the original air date of South Park’s Ginger Kids episode.  For anyone who hasn’t seen this episode, this will explain everything:

It’s #6

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNJDbZD7q7g

This particular episode was hilarious to me, although it did illuminate certain stereotypes and phobias that had originated in Western Europe where the highest concentrations of red heads can be found. The more I looked into the different myths and facts about gingers the more awesomely weird things I stumbled upon so I thought I’d share only the weirdest of my findings.

The Legends

Ancient Gingers

In ancient Egypt having red hair was thought to be a sign of being a vampire, and no one wants those sparkly things around so what did they do? Many red heads were sacrificed to the gods. So it was kind of a two-fer. The Egyptians got rid of their pesky vampire problem AND they appeased the gods.  I think this is sick, although I find it interesting that gingers were ever found in a desert. Did they get lost? Surely people that pale wouldn’t choose to be there.  At this time period I assume that someone with my coloring or similar, should be in Ireland guarding a tiny pot of gold.

Medieval Gingers

Being a red head in the Middle Ages wasn’t a lot better than the ancient times in terms of stigma. Red hair was thought to be a mark of insatiable sexual desire and loose morals.  But wait, there’s more!  Gingers were still thought to be vampires, and now, if you have red hair and green eyes that was a dead giveaway for a witch. The red hair was thought to be a sign that you had made a pact with the devil himself.  Witch and Vampire stuff aside, insatiable sexual desire? I’m not sure how that one got started, I don’t particularly think my desires or other gingers’ is out of control. Unless I saw that guy who played new-kid Michael from Salute Your Shorts. He would GET IT.  One more odd fact, it was thought that the fat from a red headed man was the key for an ointment that warded off plague. So you know, gross.

Nope. Not Real.

Post-Revolutionary War Gingers

This is where it starts to get weirdly specific. It was thought that the act of a ginger breathing on your skin was enough to raise blisters. This was because of the whole witch/ vampire thing and making a pact with the devil. You know the old “selling your soul for eternal life’ bit. It was also thought that gingers  had a particular smell that was described as “Foxy.” Now I have never actually picked up a fox and sniffed it, but I would imagine that considering the twice annual bathing habits of people at that time, we all smelled a little musty. It was also said that if you had one child with red hair and then one with brown there was ‘bad blood’ in the family. I think they were just jealous; being ginger takes a lot of getting used to, to be so god-damn good looking.

The Science: We’re Mutants, kind of

The gene causing red hair was discovered in 1997, and was called gene MC1R. This is huge because the Ginger gene could now be traced, identified and showed that if you have it, parts of you are different from the Normals without it.

Science-y bit: The MC1R gene is occurs when there is a mutation on Chromosome 16 in a DNA sequence. The mutation is caused when both of the recessive alleles for red hair are present in both parents.

You didn’t skip the science part right? Bill will know!

It hurts being ginger

It’s only recently become apparent that MC1R has influence over other aspects of features besides just hair. MC1R also affects the way your brain responds to pain and pain killers. According to numerous studies, gingers have a higher pain threshold than people lacking the MC1R gene. This was proven through putting gingers and Normies through a series of electric shocks. Scientists claim the tolerance is different because of the protein strands that dictate how pain is managed that the ginger genes affect. (I could get into it but it’s super boring) The same studies show that gingers feel a broader spectrum of pain, so I don’t know if having a higher threshold is all that great. It also takes about 20% more noxious stimuli (laughing gas) to knock us out.  So essentially we are like really mediocre X-Men. OR The second lamest of the Street Fighter characters you could choose from. I say second lamest because no one ever chooses Chun-Li. Am I right?

Florence Welch is kind of a superhero

Are we going extinct?

As it stands now, red hair is the rarest type hair color. Gingers make up only about 1-2% of the world population. Several geneticists are speculating that red hair is likely to die out in the near future. However, several others are dismissing those theories as bogus. All I know is that I have a new pick-up line I’m using “Did you know that gingers are an endangered species? No? Well, want to be a hero?”  Too scary, right? It’s not all gold.

Suffice to say there are plenty of bad things that people have said about gingers in the past and current day. In fact, the term ‘Ginger’ is considered derogatory and has inspired many bouts of Anti-gingerism all over the world. One notable incident happened in November of 2008 when a 14 year old in Vancouver started an event called National Kick a Ginger Day which amassed about 5,000 members. The group was then subjected to an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for possible hate crimes. That kid was probably a dick in the first place but I’m sure it was scary to be investigated; even if it was by the Canadian Mounted Police.

Don’t be afraid of us because we’re different. Also, don’t kick us, we bruise easily.

There is one last thing I’d like to address about gingers and that is that we are often times portrayed as lame or not tough. Perhaps some of us are, but while I was looking into who was a famous ginger I found this out. One of the most notable and charismatic military men of World War II was a ginger. They called him “Copperknob” (HAHAHA) in England and he was Winston Fucking Churchill.

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is”

Gingers are lame?  We are awesome, your argument is invalid.

  1.  Garreau, Joel (March 19, 2002). “Red Alert! An Often Misunderstood Minority Finds It’s Become a Mane Attraction”. Washington Post: p. C1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A47332-2002Mar18. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  2. National Geographic, September 2007
  3. “redhead, n. and adj.”. OED Online. Oxford University Press. June 2011. http://oed.com/view/Entry/160309. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  4. ^ a b Valverde P, Healy E, Jackson I, Rees JL, Thody AJ (1995). “Variants of the melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor gene are associated with red hair and fair skin in humans”. Nature Genetics 11 (3): 328–30. doi:10.1038/ng1195-328. PMID 7581459. http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v11/n3/abs/ng1195-328.html.
  5. “Men make gods in their own image; those of the Ethiopians are black and snub-nosed, those of the Thracians have blue eyes and red hair.” Xenophanes of Colophon: Fragments, Xenophanes, J. H. Lesher, University of Toronto Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8020-8508-3, p. 90.
  6. The Life of Agricola, Ch. 11

7.             Harding, Rosalind M. et al. (April 2000). “Evidence for Variable Selective Pressures at MC1R”. American Journal of Human Genetics 66 (4): 1351–1361. doi:10.1086/302863. PMC 1288200. PMID 10733465. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=1288200.

8. HGNC Symbol Report:HCL2

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  1. May 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    This is essentially a skin care cream which can utilized against acne, skin discoloration, melasma, pigmentation and various other skin related troubles.

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