Where Did That Come From?
A Red Herring is a device which intends to divert the audience from the truth or an item of significance. For example, in Mysteries an innocent party may be purposefully cast as highly “suspicious” through emphasis or descriptive techniques; attention is drawn away from the true guilty party.
In a literal sense, there is no such fish species as a “red herring”; it refers to a particularly strong kipper, i.e. fish – that has been strongly cured in brine and/or heavily smoked. This process makes the fish particularly pungent smelling and turns them red.
There are variations of the story, but the most common states that the red herring would be dragged along a trail until a puppy hound learned to follow the scent. Later, when the dog was being trained to follow the faint odor of a fox, the trainer would drag a red herring perpendicular to the animal’s trail to confuse the dog. The dog would eventually learn to follow the original scent rather than the stronger scent of the kippers – i.e. herring.
Another theory states that escaping convicts used the pungent fish to throw off hounds in pursuit.
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