A common thread

von anketroeder


I found this red thread dangling in a park the other day and thought: Perfect. Just what I need for my public speaking classes tomorrow. Nice find.

Roter Faden in German is often used to describe the idea of a main line of thought in a written work.

In many talks or presentations, it is often not very visible to the audience. I often bring a red thread with me and pull it from my pockets, when we talk about structure, but having an accompanying image safely stored on my hard drive is a comfortable cushion.?? And I like finding much better than arranging or staging these things. An extra layer of authenticity, so to speak.

Anyway, where was I?

??In a well structured talk the main ideas and the keywords should be easy to see, easy to hear. They should be visible to your audience. They are the dots you need to connect to a clear line of thought. It helps your listeners and it will also help yourself.

Below is the introduction to Barry Schwartz???s famous Paradox of Choice Ted Talk from 2005. You have all seen this talk, and if you haven???t, you should; it has become a modern classic, and it does not get much better, clearer, or redder than this. Even if you do not speak much English you will find it easy to follow this colorful line of thought. My students do.


As always though, when using a picture to go with an idea, I wonder if it translates from German to English or the other way round, and what possible distractors it may have stored away.

At first glance there are no problems, this is a smooth image and an easy metaphor. In both German and English you can lose your thread of thought, when you can???t remember what to say next.

In English, you can also have a red thread running through a work, ever since the British marine used coloured tracers in their ropes that could not be removed without unwinding the whole rope. Goethe first wove this image into his Wahlverwandtschaften in 1809.

It is after that, that it becomes interesting.

Red tape in English has a long tradition and stands for excessive regulation and bureaucratic minds.

The red string of fate is a common concept in East Asian love stories. It connects two lovers destined to meet. It may stretch and tangle, but never breaks. Strangely, it is perceived as red, yet the string itself is invisible.

According to the Kabbalah, a red string of wool will ward off the evil eye. Madonna had her share in making these bracelets famous.

The BBC has some suggestions on what to do with the red rubber bands British posties are dropping.

During the French revolution, a red ribbon worn around your throat became a fashion statement, showing sympathy with those who had died at the guillotine.

Red thread is also a fungal disease caused by Laetisaria fuciformis. It affects grasses and turfs.

Lisa Germano has done a Red Thread song. There are others, one is by Blind Pilot:

??One red thread through the middle of a song??, and their young fans on the web are busy trying to figure out what the line might mean.

Blood Tea and red string is a lovely, somewhat disturbing, highly decorated handmade stop-motion fairy tale for adults that took 13 years in the making.?? The promo clip is here, everything else you can find on the artist???s web site.

Red was the color of the fleece thread that Ariadne gave to Theseus to find his way back out the Minotaur???s labyrinth.

There is a Red Thread humanitarian organisation whole heartedly devoted to help change lives.

And there is much more. And I am pretty sure that the thin line between love and hate is bright red, too.

As always, when I come back from a journey that started with one small and seemingly simple picture, I am left breathless, and happy, and curious as to where the next image I find will take me. For an image will happily ignore everything you had planned for it, and send you off, destination unknown. Sometimes, serendipity rules. Not structure.

Quod erat demonstrandum.