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Is ‘blond-haired’ necessary? 
Posted: 11 August 2012 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Today a journalist in the London Times used ‘blond-haired’ twice in a single article. That’s a phrase that always grates on me because it’s a pure pleonasm - adding -haired conveys no clarification or extra shade of meaning - and simply sounds as though the writer hadn’t decided whether to write blond or fair-haired and ended by absent-mindedly using a bit of both. Does ‘blond-haired’ annoy other people here, or is it just me? And can anyone see any point in its use?

I’m also curious to know how many people hold out for the use of the French gender endings for blond/e. The word is so naturalised in English that it seems unreasonable to keep them; but to me it still feels as wrong to describe Rutger Hauer, say, as ‘the blonde Dutch actor’ as it would be to call Marilyn Monroe a ‘dumb blond’.

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Posted: 11 August 2012 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes, I still maintain the distinction with blond and blonde, as I do with naif and naive. As for blond-haired ,yep, pleonastic, tautological, supererogatory and not wanted on voyage.

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Posted: 11 August 2012 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I still maintain the distinction.  I wouldn’t say blond-haired but I wonder whether blond-haired was used to signify a person with blond hair only, not blonde as in lack of intelligence (says this non-blonde smugly)?

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Posted: 11 August 2012 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It was an ‘identify the Olympic champion from the photograph & description of him/her as a child’ feature. so there wasn’t even that excuse.

The Times was having a bad day altogether today. The first leader referred to shamefaced rip-offs and a news story reported that the British taekwondo medal-winner had received hate male on his selection for the team, so I seriously wonder if the Olympic spirit had been circulating too freely last night!

[ Edited: 11 August 2012 10:31 AM by Syntinen Laulu ]
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Posted: 11 August 2012 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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For me, “blond-haired” creates a slightly different feeling than simply “blond.” If I had to characterize it, I’d say it was the difference between a feature and an attribute.

Probably purely personal...

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Posted: 11 August 2012 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I have no problem with “blond-haired”; language isn’t maximally efficient, nor should it be.  ("Omit needless words” is one of Strunk&White’s many silly injunctions.) And I maintain a distinction between “blond” and “blonde,” though apparently it’s asymmetrical; I find describing a woman as “blond” much odder than describing a man as “blonde.”

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Posted: 11 August 2012 12:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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"Blond-haired” sounds a bit crude and careless to me—but it could be used to refer to a person with, say, fair hair and darker eyebrows (one of my female descendants has these - it’s a striking combination). I’d rather say “fair-haired” than “blond” or “blonde” or “blond-haired”.

It never before occurred to me that “blonde” might be thought of as implying a lack of intelligence. But of course - there’s “dumb blonde” (does anyone know, by the way, how far back that expression goes, and under what circumstances it originated? I find it has a Damon Runyon sort of sound).

Mrs. Little, my landlady in my student days, would always refer to an evidently artificial blonde as “a suicide blonde” (dyed by her own hand).

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Posted: 12 August 2012 01:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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What language hat said.

It’s nice to have a few different ways of saying things, even if some seem unnecessarily ornate.

Another case would be “bald-headed”.

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Posted: 12 August 2012 02:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m with Languagehat. I don’t see anything wrong with it. (Especially in speech, where the -haired, while not strictly necessary, can be a useful redundancy.)

Was the person being described a man or woman? If the latter, I can see that it might be used to avoid the low-intelligence connection. But I think it’s probably just used without any particular intention.

Also, does anyone have any clue if the Times style guide has anything to say on the matter? The Guardian maintains the blond/blonde gender distinction, but says nothing about -haired. The Telegraph does say anything about it.

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Posted: 12 August 2012 02:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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lionello - 11 August 2012 12:57 PM

“Blond-haired" sounds a bit crude and careless to me—but it could be used to refer to a person with, say, fair hair and darker eyebrows (one of my female descendants has these - it’s a striking combination). I’d rather say “fair-haired” than “blond” or “blonde” or “blond-haired”.


It never before occurred to me that “blonde” might be thought of as implying a lack of intelligence. But of course - there’s “dumb blonde” (does anyone know, by the way, how far back that expression goes, and under what circumstances it originated? I find it has a Damon Runyon sort of sound).

Mrs. Little, my landlady in my student days, would always refer to an evidently artificial blonde as “a suicide blonde” (dyed by her own hand).

The OED has a cite from 1936.

1936 ‘J. Tey’ Shilling for Candles vi. 62 A sulky fair girl, who played ‘dumb’ blondes from year’s end to year’s end.

Google Book Search provides an instance from 1935. Inverted commas around the phrase there, which can be an indication that it’s still newish and unfamiliar.

The novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady, featuring the “dumb blonde” Lorelei Lee, was published in 1925 by Anita Loos (1888-1981), and later made into a musical comedy and a film.

From So You’re Writing A Play by Clayton Meeker Hamilton published by Little, Brown and Company 1935.

I’ve always associated the phrase with the author Anita Loos and it may well be that it occurs in her writings in the 1920s. BTW the film referred to in the cite is the 1928 version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I hadn’t realized the 1950s one was a remake so at first I thought we had one of Google’s screwy dates again.

[ Edited: 12 August 2012 07:12 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 12 August 2012 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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My NY Times Manual of Style and Usage (1977) says:

blond,blonde; brunet, brunette.

Use the nouns blond and brunet for boys and men, and the nouns blonde and brunette for girls and women.
Use the adjectives blond and brunet for people of both sexes,and inanimate things.

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Posted: 12 August 2012 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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thanks, aldi. Succint and to the point, as usual.
I suppose the reference is to Josephine Tey. I remember reading a remarkable book by her, The Daughter of Time, in which she put forward the proposition that King Richard III (Plantagenet) was subjected to systematic, total character assassination by the Tudor propaganda machine (of which W. Shakespeare was an important part); the result being that history blamed Richard for the crimes of that exceedingly dangerous family, including the murder of the Princes in the Tower. She made a very convincing and carefully documented case, I remember.
Henry Ford was not too far from the truth when he (reportedly) said “History is bunk”. History is not what happened, it’s what the people who write it say happened.

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Posted: 12 August 2012 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I used to wonder what tow-headed meant in American English until I eventually looked it up. You can’t say ‘she is tow’. It comes from an ancient flax and hemp metaphor but is unknown in British English now as far as I know.

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Posted: 12 August 2012 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I also know the more recent ‘matching cuffs and collars’ for a lady who might dye up top but not below or rather neither.  Is this only Brit?

[ Edited: 12 August 2012 10:04 AM by venomousbede ]
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Posted: 12 August 2012 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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The only time I’ve heard “matching cuffs and collars” was in a James Bond film before film producers realized they were offending a large part of their international audience. So I’d say Brit, never heard it in the US. “Tow-headed” is used, anywhere in the US I’ve heard the expression, in describing a very pale blond child.

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Posted: 12 August 2012 12:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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lionello - 12 August 2012 07:33 AM

thanks, aldi. Succint and to the point, as usual.
I suppose the reference is to Josephine Tey. I remember reading a remarkable book by her, The Daughter of Time, in which she put forward the proposition that King Richard III (Plantagenet) was subjected to systematic, total character assassination by the Tudor propaganda machine (of which W. Shakespeare was an important part); the result being that history blamed Richard for the crimes of that exceedingly dangerous family, including the murder of the Princes in the Tower. She made a very convincing and carefully documented case, I remember.
Henry Ford was not too far from the truth when he (reportedly) said “History is bunk”. History is not what happened, it’s what the people who write it say happened.

Yes, the Tudor propaganda machine went into overdrive to demonize Richard III. Chief hatchet-man was none other than Sir Thomas More in his History of King Richard the Thirde, published in 1513. Hall’s The Union of the two noble and illustre famelies of Lancastre and Yorke, 1550, used More as its source and Hall was in turn followed by Raphael Holinshed in Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland . It was the latter work that was never far from Shakespeare’s hand as he wrote his history plays. Most modern historians now agree that Richard got a raw deal reputation-wise, some even questioning whether he was responsible for the murders of the Princes in the Tower. (Henry VII had just as much motive to want them out of the way as Richard himself). Who knows? Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard may be grossly unfair but what a glorious and unforgettable villain he makes! Perhaps only Iago can match him for devilish wit and unrelenting ruthlessness.

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