Blond on Blonde

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!


12 thoughts on “Blond on Blonde

  1. I just figured out how to check with with folks who has checked in my my blog, so hi. Weirdly, besides having this unique insight into etymology – i sell wigs online – since 1996. So I knew the blond(e) thing – but not the fiance. However i can tell you that the FI in fiance is the same FI un semper fi – always faithful or fidelity. The AN in fiance refers to YEAR – but it was originally the main word for SKY. ( sumerian and older i think ) .. so before we even knew what a year was, we noticed that the SKY was in the same place … hence the same word .. i believe AN is a word for SKY because its a large open sound (AHH) but you end with your tongue on the ceiling of your mouth .. hence up ( like Andes) . There’s more. The FI refers also to FIST and FIGHT and FIVE FINGERS. stuff here on all this .. thanks for noticing 🙂 JA

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      • i see spoken language as an outgrowth from body sign language. we used out eyes to communicate primarily for 2 million years. our brains were programmed that way .. from our mammalian past as well. that was NOT going to disappear quickly, because we learned how to talk about 100,000 years ago. One day. my theory will be proven. Maybe not in my life. I am 69. But its coming. i can feel it. 🙂 –

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