Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Blond - My Fair Lady

Blond, Sexist language, Hair colour,
Photo by Robert Ramirez


Adjective & noun. Also (feminine, but often used indiscriminately) blonde. Late 15th century.
[Old & modern French from medieval Latin blundus, blondus yellow, perhaps of Germanic origin: feminine form introduced from French in the 17th century.]

A adjective. (Esp. of the hair) of a light golden-brown colour, flaxen, fair;
(of the complexion) light-coloured with fair hair. L15

ash blond, platinum blond, silver blond, strawberry blond, etc.
blond beast [translating from German blonde Bestie] a man of the Nordic type.
blond bombshell, blonde bombshell: see bombshell.

B1 noun. A person (especially a woman) with blond hair and complexion. M18

B2 noun. blonde = blonde lace. M18

dumb blond, dumb blonde: see dumb adjective & noun.
peroxide blond, peroxide blonde: see peroxide noun.

Also: blondish adjective somewhat blond or light-coloured M20. blondness, blondeness noun L19. 

"A stunning blond walked into my office the other day ..." Admit it. The picture in your head is of a stunning woman walking into my office, right? To be truthful, that's the picture in my head too. Blond as a noun, however, is masculine, and blonde is feminine, and therefore it was a stunning blond man that walked into my office (boo!). In having masculine and feminine forms, blond is unusual in English, although the degree with which the difference is observed varies between country and writer, especially with regard to the adjective.

The second thing that's interesting about blond is that it does carry the societal acceptability of nominating women by their physical characteristics alone. Disregarding the spelling difference (as obviously there is no difference in pronunciation), if I corrected you with a supercilious "No, it was a stunning man that came into my office - why would you just presume it was a woman?", you'd no doubt give me a strange look. In spoken English, from either sex, a phrase like "stunning blond" implicitly says "a stunning blonde woman". Interestingly, brunet and its feminine form brunette carry the same semantic assumptions.

Male model, Pose, Shirtless, Hair colour,
This is me. A self-portrait. OK it's not. But it is proof that blond men exist.
(photo by Mary Beth Coeth Photography)
It gets worse for blonds though. Ingrained in both the English language and the English-speaking culture is the blond stereotype, or perhaps more accurately the blonde stereotype, as it's one that affects women significantly more than men. For example, the "dumb blonde" idea has created the language of being blonde, regardless of your hair colour, if you've just done something a bit stupid. And if you've had a temporary lapse of intelligence, you can be said to have had a "blonde moment".

Even worse than this, blonds have to put up with the glut of blonde jokes. While one could make an argument about the inherent sexism in blonde jokes which generally cast a blonde woman as being stupid, naive or promiscuous solely because of her hair colour, it's worth noting that in general they're just not funny! And, while competing for the "Most Unsurprising Results of Scientific Research Award", it's been shown that men find dumb blonde jokes funnier than women (the shock). Come on guys - we can do better!

A blonde child, blowing away the seeds of prejudice from a stalk of hope in a field of liberty (I think)
(photo by Victor Walsh Photography
A common reaction to prejudice based on hair colour is not to take it so seriously, as it's just a bit of fun. However, it has real-life consequences. Rather than being just some cultural quirk that we can all have a laugh about, it seems we do actually judge a person's intelligence based on their hair colour. That's pretty astounding -  all of us, men and women, society as a whole, are stupid enough to think that hair colour alone is indicative of one's intelligence. Shame on us!

Ah well. It may all be irrelevant soon anyway, as the BBC reported in 2002 that blonds will be extinct within 200 years. The thinking is that artificial blondes are more attractive to men than natural blondes, and therefore the blond gene isn't being passed on. Honestly, the BBC reported that! I would like to make a joke about them having a blonde moment in falling for such a transparent hoax but it probably wouldn't be appropriate.

Are you blond, blonde or a blond or blonde?

Do you actually find blonde jokes funny?

Should we all just relax and accept that hair-colourism is a cherished part of modern culture?

Do please leave your fair-minded, flaxen-centric comments below.  


  1. By marrying a blonde lady you made sure to preserve the blonde gene for the next generation, Ed. That shows true humanity, an admirable act of self-sacrifice.

    I myself am a brunette and convinced it is the most boring hair colour in the world. Who goes to a hairdresser and asks to be turned into a brunette? Nobody. Nobody does.

    1. I often tell my wife that marrying her was an admirable act of self-sacrifice, Bibi, but it never goes down well. I guess anything can be taken out of context.

    2. Interesting, Bibi! I was actually thankful for my darker hair. Though perhaps I just told myself that long enough until I believed I believed it (if that makes sense). I felt it made me more unique and kept me from falling into a stereotypical category - of beauty or intelligence. Perhaps I'm prejudiced against blondes (and blonds) out of jealousy though... hmm... conundrum indeed.

  2. I disagree Bibi. My wife has tried all kinds of hair colours over the last 8 years and by far the best is 'midnight black.'

    And ed, despite the disclaimer, that's how I'm going to picture you from now on unfortunately, typing up lexicotry with a demure, pensive expression on your face, topless in some old jeans which you once wore for a sponsored kneeling marathon raising money for disenfranchised male models questioning their existence.

    ........just realized I'm going to have to find a different blog on the OED.


  3. I've been struck by the recent and I think unprecedented fashion for blonde-with-two-inch-black-roots.

    I suppose this is a way of saying 'I'm really fun and non-threatening, but underneath the bubbles I have a brain of great though subtle power.'

    I think it probably works, too: the men will only notice the blonde bits, and the women will only notice the roots.

    1. Sally, you made me giggle like......well, .....like a blonde.


    2. An interesting theory, Sally, but you're a woman, and you noticed both. And in fairness, I think you're giving the average man's noticing powers far too much credit.

  4. A dumb blonde was really tired of being made fun of, so she decided to have her hair she would look like a brunette.

    When she had brown hair, she decided to take a drive in the country.

    After she had been driving for a while, she saw a farmer and a flock of sheep and thought,

    "Oh! Those sheep are so adorable!"

    She got out and walked over to the farmer and said,

    "If I can guess how many sheep you have, can I take one home?"

    The farmer, being a bit of a gambler himself, said she could have a try.

    The blonde looked at the flock and guessed, "157."

    The farmer was amazed - she was right! So the blonde, (who looked like a brunette), picked one out and got back into her car.

    Before she left, farmer walked up to her and said.

    "If I can guess the real color of your hair, can I have my dog back?"

    1. Ahhh, the old, misogynistically illiterate ones are always the best.

    2. Quite ... *coughs* ... I think that joke confirms a lot of what I wrote.

  5. @ Bibi..sorry to disappointed you, but being a blonde for 33 yrs i decided with a lot of thought (unlike a blonde) to go to my hairdresser and become a brunette,something I had to get out of my system!! 11 mths on I am still brunette. I wanted taste the dark side. I will return to blonde again as that's who I am but I like to think of myself as a little adventurous!!

  6. Awesome capture....will be trying this setting myself