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Thread: Dumb Blond Question

  1. #1
    The Surreal Thing AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Dumb Blond Question

    And from a brunette, no less.

    Eons ago, I was taught that blonde, with the "e," applied only to females and was only and always an adjective. When you used the hair color as a noun, it was blond without the "e."

    So a blonde hostess might seat you, but a blond took your order. I remember at the time thinking that was fairly complex and weird, and I bet a lot of people messed up.

    But now I'm wondering: Was it ever correct? I'm seeing nothing about what part of a sentence blonde-with-an-e can be when I look it up online.

    Anybody know? I don't assume my teacher was always right.

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  2. #2
    "School? Mum, no!" Fallen's Avatar
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    I think there's a distinction between UK and US usage. UK goes for gender usage (blonde female v blond male v the blonde v the blond). US mixes, some having been taught gender, but also your way, Maryn.

    Some American publishers prefer the gender 'blonde' for a woman, 'blond' when describing a male, regardless whether of noun, adjective etc.

    But there's many a change to lexis that goes over my head. Maybe it's just one of those that's in flux?

  3. #3
    My two cents,

    Well, it seems to me that dictionaries might have varied a wee bit on this, and I've seen various opinions in writing-craft related books about this (not sure what CMOS says, if one of their editions had talked about it), anyway ... The way I've tended to look at it (and still do, though perhaps even stronger now, especially for fiction) is that: blonde is used for both adjective and noun for female stuff, while blond is used for both adjective and noun for other stuff (male and neuter).

    (Edited-to-add: Though when I was very young I had opined for "A blonde has blond hair." But no longer do I. Perhaps, in that situation, both could be acceptable to most: "A blonde has blond/blonde hair"; but the following would not be acceptable: *"A blond has blonde hair.")

    That's the way I write and read fiction. An editor best not screw around with my usage of it in my fiction, not if he wants to keep the rest of his nine digits intact. And so, if I read the following (especially if fiction),
    So a blonde hostess might seat you, but a blond took your order.
    I'd be wondering, "Hey, where'd that dude come from?"

    Of course, this is my personal preference. And perhaps if the writer is writing for a publisher whose style guide says something different, then that would probably be a different type of sort of thing.
    Last edited by F.E.; 11-11-2012 at 04:02 AM. Reason: added.

  4. #4
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
    And from a brunette, no less.

    Eons ago, I was taught that blonde, with the "e," applied only to females and was only and always an adjective. When you used the hair color as a noun, it was blond without the "e."

    So a blonde hostess might seat you, but a blond took your order. I remember at the time thinking that was fairly complex and weird, and I bet a lot of people messed up.
    No; you're right. It's a distinction that's fading rapidly in the U.S. so that now it's a matter of house style. Even recent dictionaries will vary.

    Brunette also used to be feminine gendered. Not so much now, and petit and petite, even as loan words, are losing their gender distinction.

    Blonde/Blond is part of a very limited group of adjectives that have retained gender in English; people write dissertations on this stuff.

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  5. #5
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    I was taught in school that American English used blond and British English used blonde.

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    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fireluxlou View Post
    I was taught in school that American English used blond and British English used blonde.
    That's not accurate—I know you were taught that, but no.

    What's changing—more rapidly in the U.S. than in the U.K.—is the gendered distinction. This is less because of the usual reason, the loss of suffixes, and more because of concerns about inappropriate gender discrimination/distinctions.

    Here's a snippet from the American Heritage Book of English Usage on gendered language:

    Quote Originally Posted by gendered language
    The obvious discrepancies in usage between words such as blond/blonde, which have tended to be gender-marked in English, and words such as entrepreneur and gourmand, which have not, suggests to some that the usage has at its base a sexist stereotype: that women are primarily defined by their physical characteristics.

    Furthermore, you still see both blonde and brunette used with some frequency as nouns to refer to females, while blond and brunet do not have a history of this usage when referring to males. When you read about a blond (or a blonde) entering the room, you automatically assume it is a woman. In other words, it is easier for speakers of English to equate a woman with her hair color than to do the same to a man.

    If you agree that these usages are sexist, you should use the adjectival forms blond and brunet to modify the noun hair or one of its synonyms (a woman with blond hair,) not a blond woman). You should also avoid noun usages of these terms.
    I tend to think there are better ways to express that I'm interested in a particular woman than referring to her as her hair, when it's the person I'm interested in.
    Last edited by Medievalist; 11-11-2012 at 04:50 AM.

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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    ... funny you should mention it. Next book on my reading list, or next one after that, is "Blonde on the Street Corner," by David Goodis. Pub'd in 1954.

    http://www.amazon.com/Blonde-Street-.../dp/1852424478

  8. #8
    Up all night to get Loki Jersey Chick's Avatar
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    I've read the word blonde/blond so many times in this thread, it doesn't look right any more...

    My 2 cents - I was taught blonde for female, blond for male. This is the first I'm reading about noun/adjective spellings.

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  9. #9
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    I looked this up last year, and my research told me that "blonde" was a noun referring to a female, and "blond" was either a noun referring to a male or an adjective.
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    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    I thought it was blonde for females and blond for males. I'm blonde (ok, strawberry blonde ).
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  11. #11
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    My dictionary defines blonde simply as the feminine of blond both as adjective and noun.

  12. #12
    I'm writing. Undistractable. mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medievalist View Post
    No; you're right. It's a distinction that's fading rapidly in the U.S. so that now it's a matter of house style. Even recent dictionaries will vary.

    Brunette also used to be feminine gendered. Not so much now, and petit and petite, even as loan words, are losing their gender distinction.

    Blonde/Blond is part of a very limited group of adjectives that have retained gender in English; people write dissertations on this stuff.
    Lord - don't tell the French!

  13. #13
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    In school, it was always blonde for females, and blond for males. I see it used in all sorts of ways now, but I'd never use blonde for a male.

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    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Clint was called Blondie -
    Everything yields to treatment.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bufty View Post
    In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Clint was called Blondie -
    Yeah, but Blondie is different. It's always been unisex nickname.

  16. #16
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    No. You're kidding me, surely.

    ETA- it was a joke....

    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    Yeah, but Blondie is different. It's always been unisex nickname.
    Last edited by Bufty; 11-18-2012 at 04:20 PM.
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  17. #17
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    "Blondie" is a nickname like "Red." It can apply to either men or women, although I've mostly heard it used for women.

    I like the idea of eradicating referring to women simply by their hair color. I still remember with annoyance the 1970s-era ad for a Barbie-type doll, "Tiffany Taylor (wolf whistle inserted in the song here), She's what you want her to be, a pretty brunette, a willowy blonde (wolf whistle inserted in the song here)."

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alessandra Kelley View Post
    "Blondie" is a nickname like "Red." It can apply to either men or women, although I've mostly heard it used for women.

    I like the idea of eradicating referring to women simply by their hair color. I still remember with annoyance the 1970s-era ad for a Barbie-type doll, "Tiffany Taylor (wolf whistle inserted in the song here), She's what you want her to be, a pretty brunette, a willowy blonde (wolf whistle inserted in the song here)."
    ... would have agreed with you up until this thread was posted. I never knew guys were also referred to by hair color: "blond." So since the term is used for both men and women it seems more okay. Still not entirely so, though. Your point is still valid to a degree.

  19. #19
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    When I was a kid, my hair was carrot colored. I was nicknamed "Red" and "Carrot Top".

    Blondie indeed does apply to male/female, though I'm sure women get called Blondie more often.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alessandra Kelley View Post
    "Blondie" is a nickname like "Red." It can apply to either men or women, although I've mostly heard it used for women.

    I like the idea of eradicating referring to women simply by their hair color. I still remember with annoyance the 1970s-era ad for a Barbie-type doll, "Tiffany Taylor (wolf whistle inserted in the song here), She's what you want her to be, a pretty brunette, a willowy blonde (wolf whistle inserted in the song here)."

    Men and women both are referred to by hair color. Hair color gives a more accurate picture.

    I also love pretty brunettes, willowy blondes, and especially fiery redheads.

    We all have something inside of us, DNA, or early childhood memories, or instinct, that makes use look at a particular appearance with great favor. I don't think, Okay, she has red hair, green eyes, and a few freckles, so I think she's beautiful.
    I see her, and with no conscious thought, my mind and body both react.

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  21. #21
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    I just spell it blond for everyone. It seems really strange to me that an adjective describing hair color would be spelled differently for males and females. As far as I know, we don't do it for other common adjectives describing appearance (like spelling tall "talle" if it's used to refer to a female). If I'm fortunate enough to get an editor someday, I guess I'll have to go with what he or she wants.

    I'll admit it's always galled me a bit that hair color is so often used as a noun for a female but is nearly always an adjective for a male (sometimes males are referred to redheads, but I've never seen them called blonds or brunettes :p). I am a woman (or even a person) with brown hair, darn it, not "a brunette." It's almost as if (gasp) a woman's superficial appearance is her defining and most important trait!

    Women certainly have preferences with regards to male appearance too, and many women notice hair color (hence the tall, dark and handsome stereotype). But in general, they seem to spend less time focusing on hair color as a singular trait. I think if women have a strong prejudice, unfortunately, it's for males who are at least somewhat taller than they are (which annoys my more petite male friends to no end). But I've never seen a tall man referred to as "a tall."
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    "What's your hair color?"

    "Blond. Dumb blond."



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    Quote Originally Posted by Jersey Chick View Post
    I've read the word blonde/blond so many times in this thread, it doesn't look right any more...

    My 2 cents - I was taught blonde for female, blond for male. This is the first I'm reading about noun/adjective spellings.

    Nao mah head hurtz.
    I'm with you, Jersey. Wow, I feel pretty stupid now. I guess it just never came up again after learning it so incorrectly.

  24. #24
    And now, back to Plotting! Duncan J Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tedium View Post
    I'm with you, Jersey. Wow, I feel pretty stupid now. I guess it just never came up again after learning it so incorrectly.
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  25. #25
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duncan J Macdonald View Post
    For hurtz heds, try on:

    Male Spelling --- Female Spelling
    Aviator --- Aviatrix
    Executor --- Executrix
    Steward --- Stewardess
    Actor --- Actress
    But we are getting away from a lot of this in modern life (thank heavens). For instance, I've seen women referred to simply as actors, and the words steward and stewardess have been replaced by "flight attendant."

    A lot of the male gendered words for professions have also been replaced--for instance, chairman is now simply "chair," and fireman is now firefighter.

    Back in the 80's, I remember people who hated feminism used to make fun of the so-called language police by stating that clunky substitute words like "fireperson and chairperson would never catch on. They were right, but people just naturally lapsed into using different terms that weren't clunky but were gender neutral, since it started to seem subconsciously wrong to them to genderize words that were no longer gender specific.

    Language evolves, and to me at least, it seems silly to cling to/insist on traditional uses that have outlived their function (which was, I assume, to separate the sexes).
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