red herring(redirected from a red-herring)
Something irrelevant that diverts attention away from the main problem or issue. The candidate used the minor issue as a red herring to distract voters from the corruption accusations against him. The mystery writer is known for introducing red herrings to arouse the reader's suspicion of innocent characters.
a piece of information or suggestion introduced to draw attention away from the real facts of a situation. (A red herring is a type of strong-smelling smoked fish that was once drawn across the trail of a scent to mislead hunting dogs and put them off the scent.) The detectives were following a red herring, but they're on the right track now. The mystery novel has a couple of red herrings that keep readers off guard.
Something that draws attention away from the central issue, as in Talking about the new plant is a red herring to keep us from learning about downsizing plans . The herring in this expression is red and strong-smelling from being preserved by smoking. The idiom alludes to dragging a smoked herring across a trail to cover up the scent and throw off tracking dogs. [Late 1800s]
a red herring
COMMON If something is a red herring, it takes people's attention away from the main subject, problem, or situation that they should be considering. All the fuss about high pay for public employees is a bit of a red herring. The really serious money is to be found in private companies. A sighting of the missing woman in London turned out to be a red herring. Note: A red herring is a herring that has been soaked in salt water for several days, and then dried by smoke. Red herrings were sometimes used when training dogs to follow a scent. They were also sometimes used to distract dogs from the scent they were following during a hunt.
a red herringsomething, especially a clue, which is or is intended to be misleading or distracting.
This expression derives from the former practice of using the pungent scent of a dried smoked herring to teach hounds to follow a trail (smoked herrings were red in colour as a result of the curing process).
a red ˈherringa fact, etc. which somebody introduces into a discussion because they want to take people’s attention away from the main point: Look, the situation in French agriculture is just a red herring. We’re here to discuss the situation in this country.This idiom comes from the custom of using the scent of a smoked, dried herring (which was red) to train dogs to hunt.
A diversionary tactic; a false or deliberately misleading trail. This expression comes from the use of strong-smelling smoked herrings as a lure to train hunting dogs to follow a scent. They also could be used to throw dogs off the scent, and it was this characteristic that was transferred to the metaphoric use of red herring. “Diverted from their own affairs by the red herring of foreign politics so adroitly drawn across the trail,” wrote W. F. Butler (Life of Napier, 1890).
A misleading clue. Many people who know the phrase believe it came from the practice of game poachers laying scents of smoked herring (smoking accounted for the fish's reddish color) to throw gamekeepers and their dogs off the poachers' scent. However, etymologists discount that explanation, favoring instead that the phrase originated with an English writer who used the scent-laying image as a metaphor for a particular political plan. Mystery writers, readers, and critics use “red herring” to describe a piece of plotting intended to throw the reader off in deducing who-done-it. The financial world uses the phrase to mean a stock prospectus, not from any intent to deceive, but because the document has a red cover.