According to flynn999 in this Wordorigins thread:

If you’re just saying someone is ginger-haired or ginger, factually, without any intended insult both g’s are pronounced soft (jin-jer). If you are being insulting it can be pronounced with a hard g and no soft g sound in the middle (ging-er, like singer), but by no means always or even the majority of the time, and its quite new. (I’ve taken to calling my tortoiseshell and white cat Ging Ging (like Sing Sing)). Its almost always more of a joke, though obviously some people can use it to be seriously nasty or bitchy

The learned Dr. Techie says “it sounds rather improbable,” and aldiboronti (a Brit) says “I’ve never heard a hard ‘g’ pronunciation in my life for any sense of the word.” As always, I turn to my readership for enlightenment: are any of you familiar with this alleged ginger-rhymes-with-singer pronunciation?


  1. Never heard such a thing before in my life. Except for once a non-native speaker of English produced such a pronunciation, but was unfamiliar with the word.

  2. I can certainly attest to its existence, but I’m afraid I can’t shed much light on the origin of this pronunciation. Anecdotally I would suggest that it might come from the north of England, but I wouldn’t swear to it. In my experience it’s not always used pejoratively, but someone describing his/herself as “ging-er” sounds rather self-deprecating.

  3. Yes, schoolboy slang at least 10 years old.

  4. Well I’ve just consulted my spawn (aged 8 and 12) and they both know and use the term ginger-rhymes-with-singer. They report that it can be used in either a friendly or insulting way – “it depends on how you say it”.
    I haven’t used the term myself but had a vague memory of hearing one of them employ it which was why I checked. This implies to me that it’s only recently become widespread.

  5. There’s a hard g in the middle of singer? Like in finger? Surely “hard g” and “rhymes with singer” have to be two different pronunciations?

  6. Yes, flynn999 is right. Pronounciation with a hard g – “ging-er” – indicates an insulting usage. Heard fairly often at uni in the UK, mid-90’s.

  7. I’ll be damned. Thanks, all, you’ve come through once again!

  8. Elizabeth Zwicky: “Hard g” & “rhymes with singer” refer to different parts of the word. (I.e., the pronunciation would be [‘gɪŋə(r)] or similar.)

  9. Only in the UK, but yes, definitely. It doesn’t seem to have crossed the border into Ireland, and I suspect that within the UK it’s not made it into Scotland, that bastion of redheadedness.

  10. Those darn kids; don’t they know there are different ways to pronounce “singer”?

  11. mollymooly says

    I wonder if “ginger rhymes with minger” would be a more apposite taunt?
    “minger”, which rhymes with “singer”, is alleged to derive from “minge”, which rhymes with “singe”. Something smells fishy…

  12. It’s current in New Zealand, has been for some years, and is often spelled “ginga” because we don’t say “r” at the end of a word down here. And it’s mildly pejorative.
    Rhymes with singer, not finger.
    (Apropos singer and finger: once upon a time I was trying teach a visitor from Long Island to pronounce Maori, which has the “ng” in singer. She couldn’t do it, and eventually I clicked that “ng” without a hard g just didn’t exist in her dialect. So saying “just like the sound in singer” wasn’t going to work…)

  13. (Ah, Lawn Guyland!)
    I’ve never heard this before, but I do remember reading something that alluded to this pronunciation. I wish I could remember what it was, or where.

  14. Novelist Martin Amis famously has a “Lorne Guyland” character, Q. See this:
    Lorne Guyland was, let us say, inspired by Kirk [Douglas]. He didn’t go n-u-d-e for me but, on the set, he was always ripping his clothes off. Movie stars are funny that way, or they used to be. During the same shoot I had dinner with Harvey Keitel in his room at Claridge’s, and he was stripped to the waist throughout. It was a hot night, I admit. Kirk was very bright, and very sweet in his way. As he said to the director (who was soon to be fired), “The thing is, John, I’m unbelievably insecure.” He was, again, naked at the time.
    From here:

  15. michael farris says

    since we’re already here, is ‘ginger’ meaning red-headed (pretty alien to my dialect) related to ginger the spice? If so, why? Ginger IME is yellowish (yeah, there are some ginger-like spices that are orange-reddish but they’re not ginger in modern usage).

  16. Good question, Michael. I don’t know the answer. But it may be to do with the supposed hot temper of persons of the redhaired persuasion. None of this is to be confused with the adjective ginger as a back-formation (says SOED) of the adjective gingerly, itself from the adverb gingerly (“delicately, tentatively, with great caution”), perhaps from “OFr. gensor, genzor pretty, delicate, compar. of gent graceful f. L genitus (well)-born.” Then again, perhaps the supposed flighty redhaired temperament is after all a species of “delicacy”. (It is most certainly associated with what we used to call “good breeding”…)

  17. I’ve heard this pronuncation as well and I’ve also heard it paired with “minger” so it’s definitely pejorative in that context. I can’t remember when or where I heard it first but I think it was an English friend, it’s definitely not common in Ireland but it wouldn’t be unknown either.

  18. If this exists, then it must be restricted to the under thirties (which would be consistent with connecting it to ‘minger’, which is not a word much used by adults).
    Anecdotally I would suggest that it might come from the north of England, but I wouldn’t swear to it
    Anecdotally, I’ve lived in the north of England for the last 30 years, and I’ve never heard it, though I’ve heard the conventional pronunciation as an insult often enough.

  19. Can’t comment much about the ng pronunciation – I constantly mispronounce it in Visayan.
    But the difference between hard and soft gs are interesting.
    There are a lot of Aussies here, and I suffer a lot of comments about whingeing (spelling?) Poms (as opposed to singing Poms).
    Gin is a favourite local drink here. You take a bottle of gin, and up-end a bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice on top of it, very, very carefully, and wait until convection or macro-flow, or whatever they call it, makes the two liquids meld nicely.
    The gin is Gilbey’s, and I find it absolutely impossible to correct the local pronunciation of Jillbeys Jin with any degree of rationality.
    best regards
    Richard Parker
    Siargao Island, The Philippines.
    I have started a weblog – Notes From a Small Island, at about the island, Austronesian languages and customs, etc.
    My website at is about the island and its people, coastal early humans, fishing, coconuts, bananas and whatever took my fancy at the time.

  20. Sorry about the double post – pressed wrong buttons again.
    But another thought occurred to me:
    Does the ex-Leader of the Liberal party call himself Ming or Minge?
    If the latter, I can understand why he’s not wanted any more.

  21. Terry Collmann says

    In case it hasn’t been made clear here, ming (hard g) as in “smelly, ugly, disgusting” has nothing to do with minge (soft g) as in female genitals – the OED makes clear they’re two very different words.
    Ming as the shortened version of Sir Menzies Campbell’s name is pronounced with a hard g, as Menzies is pronounced ming’is, with a hard g …
    Ginger pronounced to rhyme with finger can be compared, I suspect, to other “deliberate mispronunciations with insulting intent” such as Gooner for Gunner, the nickname for a supporter of Arsenal Football Club.

  22. No, I’ve never heard of this pronunciation, and as a formerly ginger-haired Briton I think I would have done.

  23. Sheilhaoigh says

    Very much current in England, at least. Older than ‘minger’ too, from personal experience. That is, I was hearing ‘guinger’, to coin a spelling, from about the age of 10, whereas ‘minger’ didn’t appear in the aether around me until I was about 14 or so. Oh, and yes, it’s only ever been pejorative uses that I’ve heard.

  24. The first time I can definitely remember hearing ‘ginger’ (with all the gs hard) used was in West Yorkshire, to refer to Cxxx Sxxxxxx in my fourth form at school. I hadn’t heard it when I lived down in Berkshire (up to 1989) – so it can sort of be pinned down to being a northern coinage of the early 90s, based on my own personal experience.

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