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Blond (male) or blonde (female), also referred to as fair hair, is a human hair color characterized by low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. The resultant visible hue depends on various factors, but always has some yellowish color. The color can be from the very pale blond (caused by a patchy, scarce distribution of pigment) to reddish "strawberry" blond or golden-brownish ("sandy") blond colors (the latter with more eumelanin). Occasionally, the state of being blond, and specifically the occurrence of blond traits in a predominantly dark or colored population are referred to as blondism.[1]

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In Western culture, blonde hair has long been associated with beauty and vitality. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, was described as having blonde hair. In ancient Greece and Rome, blonde hair was frequently associated with prostitutes, who dyed their hair using saffron dyes in order to attract customers. The Greeks stereotyped Thracians and slaves as blond and the Romans associated blondness with the Celts and the Germans to the north. In the ancient Greek world, Homer's Iliad presented Achilles as what was then the ideal male warrior: handsome, tall, strong, and blond.[2] In western Europe during the Middle Ages, long, blonde hair was idealized as the paragon of female beauty. The Norse goddess Sif and the medieval heroine Iseult were both significantly portrayed as blonde and, in medieval artwork, Eve, Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin Mary are often shown with blonde hair. In contemporary Western culture, blonde women are often negatively stereotyped as beautiful, but unintelligent.

The word blond has two possible origins. Some linguists[who?] say it comes from Medieval Latin blundus, meaning 'yellow', from Old Frankish blund which would relate it to Old English blonden-feax meaning 'grey-haired', from blondan/blandan meaning 'to mix' (compare: blend).[citation needed] Also, Old English beblonden meant 'dyed', as ancient Germanic warriors were noted for dyeing their hair. However, linguists who favor a Latin origin for the word say that Medieval Latin blundus was a vulgar pronunciation of Latin flavus, also meaning 'yellow'. Most authorities, especially French, attest to the Frankish origin. The word was reintroduced into English in the 17th century from French, and was for some time considered French; in French, blonde is a feminine adjective; it describes a woman with blond hair.[5]

Blond, with its continued gender-varied usage, is one of few adjectives in written English to retain separate lexical genders. The two forms, however, are pronounced identically. American Heritage's Book of English Usage propounds that, insofar as "a blonde" can be used to describe a woman but not a man who is merely said to possess blond(e) hair, the term is an example of a "sexist stereotype [whereby] women are primarily defined by their physical characteristics."[6] The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) records that the phrase "big blond beast" was used in the 20th-century to refer specifically to men "of the Nordic type" (that is to say, blond-haired).[7] The OED also records that blond as an adjective is especially used with reference to women, in which case it is likely to be spelt blonde, citing three Victorian usages of the term. The masculine version is used in the plural, in "blonds of the European race",[7] in a citation from 1833 Penny cyclopedia, which distinguishes genuine blondness as a Caucasian feature distinct from albinism.[8]

By the early 1990s, blonde moment or being a dumb blonde had come into common parlance to mean "an instance of a person, esp. a woman... being foolish or scatter-brained."[9] Another hair color word of French origin, brunette (from the same Germanic root that gave brown), functions in the same way in orthodox English. The OED gives brunet as meaning 'dark-complexioned' or a 'dark-complexioned person', citing a comparative usage of brunet and blond to Thomas Henry Huxley in saying, "The present contrast of blonds and brunets existed among them."[10] Brunette can be used, however, like blonde, to describe a mixed-gender populace. The OED quotes Grant Allen, "The nation which resulted... being sometimes blonde, sometimes brunette."[11]

Blond and blonde are also occasionally used to refer to objects that have a color reminiscent of fair hair. For example, the OED records its use in 19th-century poetic diction to describe flowers, "a variety of clay ironstone of the coal measures", "the colour of raw silk",[7] a breed of ray, lager beer, and pale wood.[12]

Blond hair is most common in light-skinned infants and children,[37] so much so that the term "baby blond" is often used for very light colored hair. Babies may be born with blond hair even among groups where adults rarely have blond hair, although such natural hair usually falls out quickly. Blond hair tends to turn darker with age, and many children's blond hair turns light, medium, or dark brown, before or during their adult years.[37] Because blond hair tends to turn brown with age, natural blond hair is significantly less common in adulthood;[38][39] according to the sociologist Christie Davies, only around five percent of adults in Europe and North America are naturally blond.[38] A study conducted in 2003 concluded that only four percent of American adults are naturally blond.[39] A significant number of Caucasian women dye their hair blonde, perhaps a higher percentage than for any other hair color.[38][40]

In France, according to a source published 1939, blondism is more common in Normandy, and less common in the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean seacoast; 26% of the French population have blond or light brown hair.[42] A 2007 study of French females showed that by then roughly 20% were blonde, although half of these blondes were fully fake. Roughly ten percent of French females are natural blondes, of which 60% bleach their hair to a lighter tone of blond.[43]

A number of blond naturally mummified bodies of common people (i.e. not proper mummies) dating to Roman times have been found in the Fagg El Gamous cemetery in Egypt. "Of those whose hair was preserved 54% were blondes or redheads, and the percentage grows to 87% when light-brown hair color is added."[48] Excavations have been ongoing since the 1980s. Burials seem to be clustered by hair-colour.[49]

The Hmong people, originally from northern China, were historically recorded as having blonde hair and blue eyes by the Chinese in ancient times, but their features became darker as they migrated out of China and in to Southeast Asia.[57]

The ethnic Miao people of Guizhou province from China, a subgroup of Hmong people, have been described as having blue eyes and blonde hair. F.M Savina of the Paris Foreign missionary society wrote that the Miao are "pale yellow in complexion, almost white, their hair is often light or dark brown, sometimes even red or corn-silk blond, and a few even have pale blue eyes."[63]

Medieval Scandinavian art and literature often places emphasis on the length and color of a woman's hair,[93] considering long, blond hair to be the ideal.[93] In Norse mythology, the goddess Sif has famously blond hair, which some scholars have identified as representing golden wheat.[94] In the Old Norse Gunnlaug Saga, Helga the Beautiful, described as "the most beautiful woman in the world", is said to have hair that is "as fair as beaten gold" and so long that it can "envelope her entirely".[93] In the Poetic Edda poem Rígsþula, the blond man Jarl is considered to be the ancestor of the dominant warrior class. In Northern European folklore, supernatural beings value blond hair in humans. Blond babies are more likely to be stolen and replaced with changelings, and young blonde women are more likely to be lured away to the land of the beings.[95]

In much of contemporary Western popular culture, blonde women are stereotyped as being more sexually attractive to men than women with other hair colors.[78] For example, Anita Loos popularized this idea in her 1925 novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.[78] Some women have reported they feel other people expect them to be more fun-loving after having lightened their hair.[78]

Originating in Europe, the "blonde stereotype" is also associated with being less serious or less intelligent.[78] Blonde jokes are a class of jokes based on the stereotype of blonde women as unintelligent.[78][114] In Brazil, this extends to blonde women being looked down upon, as reflected in sexist jokes, as also sexually licentious.[115] It is believed the originator of the dumb blonde was an eighteenth-century blonde French prostitute named Rosalie Duthé whose reputation of being beautiful but dumb inspired a play about her called Les Curiosites de la Foire (Paris 1775).[78] Blonde actresses have contributed to this perception; some of them include Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Holliday, Jayne Mansfield and Goldie Hawn during her time at Laugh-In.[78]

The British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock preferred to cast blonde women for major roles in his films as he believed that the audience would suspect them the least, comparing them to "virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints", hence the term Hitchcock blonde.[116] This stereotype has become so ingrained it has spawned counter-narratives, such as in the 2001 film Legally Blonde in which Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon, succeeds at Harvard despite biases against her beauty and blond hair.[78]

In the 1950s, American actress Marilyn Monroe's screen persona centered on her blonde hair and the stereotypes associated with it, especially dumbness, naïveté, sexual availability and artificiality.[117] She often used a breathy, childish voice in her films, and in interviews gave the impression that everything she said was "utterly innocent and uncalculated", parodying herself with double entendres that came to be known as "Monroeisms".[118] For example, when she was asked what she had on in a 1949 nude photo shoot, she replied, "I had the radio on".[119] Monroe often wore white to emphasize her blondeness, and drew attention by wearing revealing outfits that showed off her figure.[120] Although Monroe's typecast screen persona as a dim-witted but sexually attractive blonde was a carefully crafted act, audiences and film critics believed it to be her real personality and did not realize that she was only acting.[121] 041b061a72


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