Letter from Jim Calvert
Minerals – December 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine
Coltan and Red Herrings
Mr. Wolfe’s explanation of “red herring” was curious, but I think there is an easier one. A red herring is just a kipper, a smoked herring, which is oily and odoriferous. This is an old word, but still heard in England. They were (and are) used as a drag to train dogs for hunting. A kipper is tied to a string and pulled along a route, with foxy tricks like going across water, or through rocks, or forking, and the dogs are let loose to follow the trail. The dogs are given further instruction if they lose the trail. This makes the term “a red herring” comprehensible as something to divert a pack of journalists from the real affair. These are not the appalling “kippered herring” we get in cans here, but brightly colored split fish, by the way.