Ranga: A person with red hair. Australian slang term of unknown origin; possibly shortened from “orangutan.” According to Australian Word Map*, the word is generally not considered derogatory; Urban Dictionary’s contributors agree with the definition but maintain the word is in fact a slur.
I discovered ranga while researching Julia Gillard, Australia’s new prime minister (pictured here). Gillard, 48, is the first woman and the first unmarried person to hold the post—but, as Newsweek pointed out, she’s the country’s second prime minister with red hair. The first was James Scullin, who served from 1929 to 1932.
Gillard’s hair color has been a hot topic in Australia. “From One Carrot Top to Another, Go Ranga,” reads the headline on an opinion piece in the Brisbane Times by Amelia Bentley:
Fanta pants, carrot top - and everyone’s current favourite - ranga.
I’ve heard them all and no doubt so has Julia Gillard, particularly in the last week when it seemed many Australians were talking about the fact that a woman with Ronald McDonald hair was our new Prime Minister.
“Australia seemed to up the ante against flame-haired people,” Bentley continues, after ranga became popularized through a 2007 mockumentary series, “Summer Heights High,” that was broadcast on Australian television.
There are Facebook groups called Julia Gillard—Australia’s First Ranga Female Prime Minister, Great—Now We Have a Ranga Running Our Country, and Stop Referring to Julia Gillard As a Ranga.
Australian Word Map identifies the Perth area as the source of ranga.
Bonus link: A list of nicknames for redheads, at Raising Redheads.
* A fascinating site. I recommend clicking on Word Lucky Dip in the upper left-hand corner.