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Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:
otherwise: in other aspects, apart from that
cowardice: no courage or bravery
hazard: a danger or a risk
speculum: a medical instrument, a metallic mirror in a telescope
brunette: a woman or girl with dark brown hair
raven-haired: glossy, black hair
ginger: a light reddish-yellow or orange-brown colour, a person with red hair
glow: to give out light without a flame – typically red or orange
The Unbelievable Truth is a hit Radio 4 panel show in which contestants hide five strange-but-true facts into an otherwise entirely fictitious essay
Can you spot the five truths in this essay about the colour red? Only five sentences are true – the rest of the essay is full of lies!
In human colour psychology, red is associated with cowardice, laziness, greed, envy and Thursday. In scientific laboratories, signs warning of hazards are usually bright red to denote danger.
As every schoolchild knows, red is the third colour of the speculum. It is the favourite colour of teachers who nearly always wear red underwear when working and get special discounts at Harrods when purchasing their lingerie and pyjamas.
Every creature on earth knows the difference between red and green, except for guide dogs for the blind who can’t tell a red light from a green one. They are trusted to direct their owners across the street purely because they are known to be extremely lucky.
It is recognised that red is the most attractive hair colour by far, and yet when a survey was carried out in 2008 it found 62 of the world’s 100 richest men were married to brunettes, 22 to blondes, 16 to ‘raven-haired‘ women, and none at all to a redhead.
Silent movie star Clara Bow had her hair dyed red to match the fur of her two Red Setters. It had no adverse effect on her film career however, as she appeared solely in black and white.
Although they never go grey or bald, redheads start out with less hair than anyone else. They have an average of 90,000 hairs compared to the 140,000 you have if you’re blonde. Compared to other coloured hair, red hair is notably sensitive. Many red-haired people dislike going to the hairdresser as much as going to the dentist, as they can actually feel the hairs being cut. This sensitivity isn’t only restricted to hair; in fact research has shown that people with ginger hair require 20 per cent more anaesthetic before surgery than people with other coloured hair.
The spice ginger gets its name from the profuse red hairs found on the roots before it is prepared for market.
Scientists in South Korea have manipulated the genes in a cat to make it glow red. The so-called ‘Fire Cat’ gives out enough light to read a book by. The scientists explain that they have done this to benefit the animal because the red cat will now be invisible to dogs. Meanwhile scientists in North Korea have been working on a project to make everyone in South Korea glow red in the dark.
Something to chat about
- What are the different colours associated with being a coward or feeling envy? Can you think of any other associations?
- What is your favourite hair colour: (i) for yourself (ii) for others? Why?
- Should scientists be allowed to change the colour of things such as animals and plants?
- What is a white lie? Do you ever use them? If so, in what situations?
- Is a world without lies possible?
The 5 sentences from page 1 that are true are…
- Fact 1: Guide dogs for the blind cannot tell a red light from a green one.
- Fact 2: When a survey was carried out in 2008 it found 62 of the world’s 100 richest men were married to brunettes, 22 to blondes, 16 to ‘raven-haired’ women, and none at all to a redhead.
- Fact 3: Redheads start out with less hair than anyone else. They have an average of 90,000 hairs compared to the 140,000 you have if you’re blonde.
- Fact 4: Research has shown that people with ginger hair require 20 per cent more anaesthetic before surgery than people with other coloured hair.
- Fact 5: Scientists in South Korea have manipulated the genes in a cat to make it glow red.