Thursday, 18 October 2007

Red light district, origin and meaning

I don’t think one has to say anything about the meaning, it is the origin that I found interesting. As with most expressions there is more than one possible source.
The color red and prostitution dates back to biblical times. A prostitute in Jericho identified her house with a red piece of material or rope so that her house could be identified by spies as a safe haven. (Rahab). But this is in a different context.
One most often cited origin is from the United States circa 1900. Railway workers had red lanterns. And when visiting a brothel the lantern would be placed at the door. Either to signify that the particular lady was busy, or as a reference as to where the gentlemen could be found in a case of emergency.
In Japan a red-light district is known as akasen, which means a red line. This is in reference to a red line drawn by authorities on a map to indicate a legal brothel area. A blue line indicated a non legal area. I could not determine how old this practice is.
In ancient china red paper lanterns were reportedly used to indicate brothels. This is the oldest reference I could find.
Somewhere I read that red is a colour associated with passion, I don’t know if this is true, the most common interpretation is anger.
That’s it…..

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