You may have noticed yesterday, that I wrote the following, ungainly looking thing:
Why put the E inside parentheses, some of you might have furiously asked? Or perhaps you slammed your fist on the table and angrily wondered why I even bothered including the E at all. Well, as always, I had my reasons, because blond and blonde are in fact two distinct words.
Of course, when I say distinct, I really mean that they mean the same thing, but are used in two slightly different contexts. That’s not such a dramatic way to end a paragraph though. You see, the word blond(e) comes from French, and in French adjectives must agree with the gender of the noun they’re modifying. So if you’re referring to a man or a male noun, you use blond, and if you’re referring to a woman/a female noun, you use blonde.
Even though we tend to make foreign loanwords conform to the systems of English, we’ve kept this convention from French. Probably it’s because, when referring to people, there is, for many, an important distinction between a man and a woman’s blonde hair. When using blond as an adjective, it’s OK to drop the E, though you can still add it when referring to a woman. If you’re using it as a noun though (e.g. he’s a blond), it’s strictly correct to follow the French convention.
The only other common word which requires you to drop or add the E is another French import: fiancé(e). I think it’s fairly logical in this case, particularly now that same-sex marriage is becoming more common, it informs you of the gender of the person. There’s a big difference between That’s his fiancé and That’s his fiancée, and of course both could be correct depending on the couple.
Congratulations: you’re now fully equipped to accurately refer to an engaged couple in which one or both have blond(e) hair!