English Expression: a red herring, is it a fishy story?

Today I’m posting an  English vocabulary item related to fish.


In a class yesterday a student asked what a “red Herring” is.

A herring is an oily fish that often moves in large groups (called schools) they are often smoked, salted or pickled but I prefer fresh herring cooked on the barbecue. They ARE NOT red!

The expression “a red herring” usually refers to a piece of information, idea or suggestion that is introduced to distract people from the main thread of the discussion, debate or story. Writers of mystery, crime and intrigue novels frequently introduce a character or a subplot which distracts the reader from discovering the solution to the story; this would be a red herring.

Sometimes politicians introduce red herrings into debates to draw people’s attention away from the facts:

Interviewer: Now could you explain to our viewers what your government is going to do reduce unemployment, please?

Politician: I’m pleased you asked me this question. This is, of course, very important and something that my government are very concerned about. I must remind you that unemployment in 2000 was only 7% and the previous government .. blah blah blah

Interviewer: Thank you, but talking about the previous government is a red herring, your government were elected on the promise of improving employment. What are YOU going to do about it?


Do you know any other English expressions with fish?

What is a fishy story?

Go to Vocabulary Index for more English expressions >>