Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blonde or Blond?

I consider myself to be a fairly skilled user of the English language. After all, I am a writer and an interpreter. Right? I know my English. But once in a while I knowingly break a rule (or maybe bend it just a little) and sometimes I don't know any better. Or I make a typographical error or just do it wrong.

Generally, I know what I'm doing.

Once in a while a word comes up in my writing or out of my mouth and I think, "Huh! I wonder if I'm using that correctly." Being in writing groups has proved useful for this - when I get feedback on something which could be done in a better way or when I read something someone else discovered. One example of this was the usage of "that" or "which" in a sentence. I know, it seems straightforward enough; but sometimes it is not as obvious for some of us. Several sessions ago another writer posted a great way to know which one was more accurate when, and I believe my writing has improved in relation to those two words.

Today when I was working on my memoir, I decided to add a detail that the upright piano was blond. Or was it blonde? I thought. So I looked it up. I don't know if I ever had this explained to me or not - I don't remember it. I've generally used it with or without the "e" based on instinct and common usage rather than knowing.

So I thought I'd share my new insight.

And, in the way of many modern language considerations, it seems to be in flux and there is not a hard and fast rule. Unless you want to follow more conventional standards. The definitions and etymology are pretty much the same across the internet and books, so I chose the one from Dictionary.com to post, for its conciseness and completeness.

Is it Blonde or is it Blond?

World English Dictionary
blonde  (blɒnd)

— adj
1.     (of women's hair) of a light colour; fair
2.     (of a person, people or a race) having fair hair, a light complexion, and, typically, blue or grey eyes
3.     (of soft furnishings, wood, etc) light in colour

— n
4.     a person, esp a woman, having light-coloured hair and skin
5.     Also called: blonde lace  a French pillow lace, originally of unbleached cream-coloured Chinese silk, later of bleached or black-dyed silk

[C15: from Old French blond  (fem blonde ), probably of Germanic origin; related to Late Latin blundus  yellow, Italian biondo , Spanish blondo ] 

see blond

—Related forms
blonde·ness, noun

—Can be confused:  blond, blonde (see usage note at the current entry ).

—Usage note
The spelling blonde is still widely used for the noun that specifies a woman or girl with fair hair: The blonde with the baby in her arms is my anthropology professor. Some people object to this as an unnecessary distinction, preferring blond for all persons: My sister is thinking of becoming a blond for a while. As an adjective, the word is more usually spelled blond in reference to either sex ( an energetic blond girl; two blond sons ), although the form blonde is occasionally still used of a female: the blonde model and her escort. The spelling blond is almost always used for the adjective describing hair, complexion, etc.: His daughter has blond hair and hazel eyes.
picture from The Immortal Piano Company