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red herring

noun
1.
a smoked herring.
2.
something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand; a misleading clue.
3.
Also called red-herring prospectus. Finance. a tentative prospectus circulated by the underwriters of a new issue of stocks or bonds that is pending approval by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: so called because the front cover of such a prospectus must carry a special notice printed in red.
4.
any similar tentative financial prospectus, as one concerning a pending or proposed sale of cooperative or condominium apartments.
Origin
late Middle English
1375-1425
1375-1425; late Middle English
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for red herring
  • That's a red herring argument, and not at all the point.
  • Government sources say that it is a bit of a red herring to draw a contrast between binding and consultative votes.
  • Arguing over some journalist's choice of headline is a bizarre and possibly destructive red herring.
  • All else is irrelevant and a red herring at the level of discussion presented by the writer.
  • The efficiency of photosynthesis is a bit of a red herring.
British Dictionary definitions for red herring

red herring

noun
1.
anything that diverts attention from a topic or line of inquiry
2.
a herring cured by salting and smoking
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for red herring
n.

"smoked herring" early 15c. (they turn red when cured), as opposed to white herring "fresh herring." Supposedly used by fugitives to put bloodhounds off their scent (1680s), hence metaphoric sense (1864) of "something used to divert attention from the basic issue;" earlier simply "a false lead":

Though I have not the honour of being one of those sagacious country gentlemen, who have so long vociferated for the American war, who have so long run on the red-herring scent of American taxation before they found out there was no game on foot; (etc.) [Parliamentary speech dated March 20, 1782, reprinted in "Beauties of the British Senate," London, 1786]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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red herring in Culture

red herring definition


In argument, something designed to divert an opponent's attention from the central issue. If a herring is dragged across a trail that hounds are following, it throws them off the scent.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for red herring

red herring

noun phrase

Something used to divert attention from the real issue or matter: All this talk of deficits is just a red herring

[1884+; fr the use of a dead red herring to confuse or test the scent of hunting dogs, found by 1686]


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with red herring

red herring

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 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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4
4
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