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Peroxide Paradox: 'Blonde' or 'Blond'?

Rob Kyff on

In American lingo today, "blonde" is a word to dye for. Recently published books include Laurence Leamer's "Hitchcock's Blondes," Ally Carter's romance "The Blonde Identity" and Emmett Hardy's crime novel "Blond Hair, Blue Eyes." Joelle Wellington's highly anticipated thriller "The Blonde Dies First" will be published this summer.

A few years ago, Natalia Ilyin's sociological study "Blonde Like Me: The Roots of the Blonde Myth in Our Culture" documented a host of Anglo-flaxenisms, including arm-piece blonde, trophy blonde, moon blonde and ironic blonde.

Hair colorists, having long ago rinsed platinum platitudes like dirty blonde, dishwater blonde and bleached blonde from their vocabulary, now favor hues such as invincible blonde, knowing blonde, buttery chunks blonde and blonde philosophy.

But amidst this wave of human blondage, even the darling dye-ennes of haute blonde can't camouflage the word's linguistic split end: Is it spelled blonde or blond?

To answer this hairy question, we'll have to expose this word's ... well, roots.

When blond/e was imported into English from French during the 1400s, it retained the gender endings of Middle French spelling: A male was a blond, while a female was a blonde.

For the past six centuries, this distinction has been loosely observed in both the noun and adjective forms of the English word. In fact, blond/blonde may well be the only English adjective that varies its form to fit the noun it describes.

 

So traditionally, blonde has referred to females, e.g., My blonde niece is a blonde, while blond has been reserved for males and physical objects, e.g., My blond nephew is a blond who owns blond furniture.

While some usage authorities, such as Merriam-Webster, stick with these gender distinctions, Bryan Garner's Modern American Usage prefers blond in ALL senses. Meanwhile, the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style advocate using blond except when it's a noun for a female, e.g., That blond woman is a blonde.

Here's my advice: Use the noun and adjective blond for males (blond guy), genderless nouns (blond children), animals (blond dog) and inanimate objects (blond beer), and either blond or blonde as an adjective to describe females.

But be wary of using either word as a noun to refer to a woman, e.g., She's a blonde/blond. Feminists understandably blanch at the idea of identifying a woman solely by her hair color, a practice not usually applied to men, so avoid this blonde bombshell.

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Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. His book, "Mark My Words," is available for $9.99 on Amazon.com. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to WordGuy@aol.com or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.


Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.

 

 

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