blond

Enlarge picture
Young Northern European man with naturally blond hair.
Blond (or blonde, see below) is a hair color found in certain people characterized by low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. The resultant visible hue depends on various factors, but always has some sort of yellowish color, going from the very pale blond caused by a patchy, scarce distribution of pigment, to reddish "strawberry" blond colors or golden brownish blond colors, the latter with more eumelanin.

Etymology, spelling, and grammar

The word blonde was first attested in English in 1481 and derives from Old French blont and meant "a colour midway between golden and light chestnut". It largely replaced the native term fair, from Old English fæger. The French (and thus also the English) word blond has two possible origins. Some linguists say it comes from Middle Latin Blundus, meaning yellow, others say it comes from Old Frankish *blund which would relate it to Old English blonden-feax meaning grey-haired, from blondan/blandan meaning to mix. Also, Old English beblonden meant dyed as ancient Germanic warriors were noted for dyeing their hair. The linguists who support the Latin origins however say that Middle Latin blundus was a vulgar pronunciation of Latin flavus, also meaning yellow. The word was reintroduced into English in the 17th century from French, and was until recently still felt as French, hence blonde for females/noun and blond for males/adjective.[1]

Writers of English will still distinguish between the masculine blond and the feminine blonde[2] and, as such, it is one of the few adjectives in English with separate masculine and feminine forms. However, many writers use only one of the spellings without regard to gender, and without a clear majority usage one way or another. The word is also often used as a noun to refer to a woman with blond hair, but some speakers see this usage as sexist[2] and reject it. (Another hair color word of French origin, brunet(te), also functions in the same way in orthodox English.)



The word is also occasionally used, with either spelling, to refer to objects that have a color reminiscent of fair hair. Examples include pale wood and lager beer.

Many sub-categories of blond hair have also been invented to describe someone with blond hair more accurately. Examples include the following:
  • Platinum blond and towhead - nearly white; found naturally almost exclusively in children, but occurring rarely among some adults
  • Sandy blond - similar to sand in color
  • Ash blond - usually quite fair, with some ashen (grey) tones
  • Dirty blond or dishwater blond - dark blond
  • Golden blond or honey blond - lighter, with a gold cast
  • Bottle blond or bleach blond - artificially dyed blond hair
  • Strawberry blond - reddish blond
  • Pool blond - with green undertones, from habitual exposure to chlorinated pool water
  • Hazy blond or zebra blond - streaked blond and brunette
  • Brownish blond - darkest shade of blond with sometimes looking light brown and at other times dark blond
  • Sunny blond - Very bright, ranging from almost yellow to light yellow.

Origins

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Dark blonde hair on Natalie Clifford Barney at age ten, painted by Carolus-Duran (1837-1917)
Lighter hair colors occur naturally in humans of all ethnicities, as rare mutations,[3] but at such low rates that it is hardly noticeable in most populations, or is only found in children. In certain European populations, however, the occurrence of blond hair is more frequent, and often remains throughout adulthood, leading to misinterpretation that blondness is a European trait. Based on recent genetic information, it is probable that humans with blond hair became distinctly numerous in Europe about 11,000 to 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. Before then, Europeans mostly had black hair and dark eyes, which is predominant in the rest of the world.[3]

A long standing question has been why certain populations in Europe evolved to have such high incidences of blond hair (and wide varieties of eye color) so relatively recently and quickly in the human evolution timescale. If the changes had occurred by the usual processes of evolution (natural selection), they would have taken about 850,000 years.<ref name="The Times" /> But modern humans, emigrating from Africa, reached Europe only 35,000-40,000 years ago.<ref name="The Times" /> A number of theories have been proposed, as follows.

Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost, under the aegis of University of St Andrews, published a study in March 2006 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior that says blond hair evolved very quickly at the end of the last Ice Age by means of sexual selection.[4] According to the study, the appearance of blond hair and blue eyes in some northern European women made them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males. The study argues that blond hair was produced higher in the Cro-Magnon descended population of the European region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses and finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men. This hypothesis argues that women with blond hair posed an alternative that helped them mate and thus increased the number of blonds.

According to the authors of The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994), blond hair became predominant in Europe in about 3000 BC, in the area now known as Lithuania, among the recently arrived Proto-Indo-European settlers though the trait spread quickly through sexual selection into Scandinavia when that area was settled because men found women with blond hair attractive.[5][6]

Relation to age and distribution on body

Blond hair is common in infants and children, 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,[7] although such natal hair usually falls out quickly. Blond hair tends to turn darker with age, and many children born blond turn from anything between a light brown to dark brown before or during their teenage years.

The body hair of blonds is also blond, although terminal hair elsewhere on the body may be darker than hair on the head, and even brown. Facial hair is often reddish. Vellus, on the other hand, may be very light or even transparent. Hair that grows from a mole or from a birthmark may be dark.

Distribution

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Pacific Islander boy[8]
Blonde hair (various shades including platinum, ash, gold and light brown) is in the majority in the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden), Finland, Germany (more pronounced in the north, west and northeast), the Netherlands, Poland, the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Belarus, England and Northern Russia. Apart from Europe, blond hair is present in various regions in the world, although they tend to appear less frequently.

Generally, blond hair in Europeans is associated with paler eye color (gray, blue, green and light brown) and pale (sometimes freckled) skin tone. Strong sunlight also lightens hair of any pigmentation, to varying degrees, and causes many blond people to freckle, especially during childhood. Aboriginal Australians, especially in the west-central parts of the continent, also have a fairly high instance of natural bright yellow blond-to-brown hair,[9][10] with as many as 90-100% of children having blond hair in some areas.[11] The trait among Indigenous Australians is primarily associated with children and women, and sometimes the hair turns to a darker brown color as they age.[11] Blondism is also found throughout other parts of the South Pacific especially in Melanesia in high numbers such as in the Solomon Islands again higher incidences in children but here many adults too carry this indigenous blond mutation.

Some Guanches populations, particularly the now extinct aboriginal population of Tenerife, one of the Canary islands of the African Atlantic coast, were said by 14th century Spanish explorers to exhibit blond hair and blue eyes.[12][13] Blondness was also reported among South American Indians. In Central and South Asia the same types of features were exhibited by certain groups. It is still found in higher frequency among some populations of Central Asia, particularly among the Kalash of Pakistan and the Nuristani people of Afghanistan. Blonds are found in North Africa in Morocco, Tunisia and northern Algeria, and in the Middle East as well. The Iranians and their related groups have a higher frequency of blonds in the Middle East (there's a very high incidence of blondism among the people of northern Iran, especially in Azarbaijan, and also to some degree in Gilan and Golestan near the Turkmen border), which includes the Kalash of Pakistan and Nuristani of Afghanistan.

In addition many mixed-race people, generally those part European mixed with some other racial groups, exhibit blond hair or hues of blond often golden, brass, or copper toned. Many examples are found in diverse countries with various ethinic groups, such as in Latin America, like Brazil for example which has a long history of interracial unions. In 2002 there was a worldwide hoax that scientists predicted blonds were eventually going to become extinct. The hoax cited WHO as the source of the scientific study. See recessive alleles for more information on the genetic basis of blond hair.

Culturally-related ideas

In northern Europe fairy lore, fairies value blond hair in humans. Blond babies are more likely to be stolen and replaced with changelings, and young blond women are more likely to be lured away to the land of the fairies.[14] Blond hair was commonly ascribed to the heroes and heroines of European fairy tales. This may occur in the text, as in Madame d'Aulnoy's La Belle aux cheveux d'or or The Beauty with Golden Hair, or in illustrations depicting the scenes.[15] Only Snow White, because of her mother's wish for a child "as red as blood, as white as snow, as black as ebony", has dark hair.[16]

Enlarge picture
Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Two notable bleached sex icons of twentieth-century America, who started causing an unrealistic, more or less scandalous and otherwise negative image of real blond hair, were Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. Monroe, who was pale blond as a child though her hair darkened to a dark reddish blond, and Harlow, a natural ash blonde, both frequently portrayed stereotypical dumb blondes in their films.

It is also stereotypical that most men do prefer blondes, seeing as how the media portray blondes as "easy" or "promiscuous". Because of this, they believe that blondes "have more fun". After the movie "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", a sequel was followed called "Gentlemen Marry Brunettes", signifying that women with darker hair are symbolized to be more motherly in nature, or more stable when it comes to marriages.

Blonde jokes are a class of jokes based on a "dumb blonde" stereotype of blonde women (or rarely, blonde men) being unintelligent, sexually promiscuous, or both.

In the early-mid twentieth century, blond hair was associated with a Nordic race, promoted by Nordicists such as Madison Grant and Alfred Rosenberg, while the "Aryan race" was conceived as a larger group, including the non-blond "Alpine race". During World War II, blond hair was one of the traits used by Nazis to select Slavic children for Germanization.

Notes

1. ^ Origin of "blonde", from Etymonline. .
2. ^ "Blond/Brunet" from The American Heritage Book of English Usage (1996)
3. ^ "Cavegirls were first blondes to have fun", from The Times. Note, the end of the Times article reiterates the Disappearing blonde gene hoax; the online version replaced it with a rebuttal.
4. ^ Abstract: "European hair and eye colour: A case of frequency-dependent sexual selection?" from Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 27, Issue 2, Pages 85-103 (March 2006)
5. ^ Cavalli-Sforza, L. Luca; Menozzi, Paolo; and Piazza Alberto The History and Geography of Human Genes Princeton, New Jersey: 1994 Princeton University Press Page 266 -- Map of the incidence of the gene for blonde hair in Europe.
6. ^ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
7. ^ See [1] for discussion of Melanesian and Aboriginal Australian children with blond hair.
8. ^ Naturally blonde blacks
9. ^ [2]
10. ^ [3]
11. ^ [4]
12. ^ http://www.familytreedna.com/(czkb1cubrllp4y45bfy33aud)/public/Guanches-CanaryIslandsDNA/index.aspx Familytreed.com
13. ^ http://washingtontimes.com/travel/20050421-090747-8069r.htm Washingtontimes.com
14. ^ Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, "Golden Hair", p194. ISBN 0-394-73467-X
15. ^ Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales And Their Tellers, p 362-6 ISBN 0-374-15901-7
16. ^ Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales And Their Tellers, p 365 ISBN 0-374-15901-7




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Broadly, melanin is any of the polyacetylene, polyaniline, and polypyrrole "blacks" and "browns" or their mixed copolymers. The most common form of biological melanin is a polymer of either or both of two monomer molecules: indolequinone, and dihydroxyindole carboxylic acid.
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A pale color is light or pastel version of a color. It has higher luminance, and lower chrominance or color saturation. In other words, it is closer to white or gray than the original color.

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The word masculine can refer to:
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In linguistics, grammatical genders, sometimes also called noun classes, are classes of nouns reflected in the behavior of associated words; every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be very few which belong to several classes at once.
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Sexism is commonly considered to be discrimination and/or hatred against people based on their sex rather than their individual merits, but can also refer to any and all systemic differentiations based on the sex of the individuals.
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Brown hair is the second most common hair color, with black being the most common. Outside of Northern Europe, where the blond mutation originated, most humans have black or dark brown hair.
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Genetics is the science of heredity and variation in living organisms.[1][2] Knowledge of the inheritance of characteristics has been implicitly used since prehistoric times for improving crop plants and animals through selective breeding.
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ice age is a period of long-term reduction in the temperature of Earth's climate, resulting in an expansion of the continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers.
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Eye color is a polygenic trait and is determined primarily by the amount and type of pigments present in the eye's iris.[1][2] Humans and animals have many phenotypic variations in eye color.
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Natural selection is the process by which favorable traits that are heritable become more common in successive generations of a population of reproducing organisms, and unfavorable traits that are heritable become less
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