In American English, people with red hair are called redheads. But Israelis took the British word “ginger” (supposedly from the root vegetable, though it’s never looked particularly reddish to me) and ran with it, calling anyone with reddish hair a “gingi” (JEEN-ji, for a male) or “gingit” (JEEN-jit, for a female).
- Word of the Day / Al Hapanim
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- Word of the Day: Halva’ah Vehisakhon / How Do You Deal With Going Bald?
As with “blondini” (or “blondinit”) to refer to people with blond hair, Israelis are sometimes a little too quick on the draw, rushing to label anyone without a Mediterranean appearance as one of these outliers. Have light brown hair, maybe a few golden or reddish highlights in the sun? In the eyes of many Israelis, there’s a good chance you’re either a blondini or a gingi.
But while many British redheads complain of being taunted for their hair color -- with one of the most extreme cases being a Newcastle family of six that complained several years ago they were forced to move out of two homes because of bullying and abuse over the color of their hair -- the Israeli take on gingi-itis seems to be mostly affectionate, if sometimes intrusive.
After all, the Bible tells us, King David was “admoni” (“reddish” or “ruddy”) and is widely seen as having had red hair (though the description could also be a reference to his complexion). If you’re living in a land where a (possibly) redheaded boy once beat a giant and became king, being a gingi can’t be all that bad.