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Blond
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Blond

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Blond (feminine: blonde) is a hair colour found in certain mammals characterised by low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin and higher levels of the pale pigment phaeomelanin, in common with red or ginger hair. The resultant visible hue depends on various factors, but always has some sort of yellowish colour, going from the very pale blond caused by a patchy, scarce distribution of pigment, to reddish 'strawberry' blond colours or golden brownish blond colours, the latter with more eumelanin.

Blond hair can be found among certain races of humans and breeds of dogs and cats, among other mammalian species.

Table of contents
1 Etymology, spelling, and grammar
2 Distribution among humans
3 Instinctive and cultural reactions

Etymology, spelling, and grammar

The adjective is a relatively recent borrowing into English from French (the traditional English terms for blond being 'fair-haired' and 'flaxen'), and careful writers still distinguish between the masculine 'blond' and the feminine 'blonde'. However, most people do not borrow French's system of grammatical gender along with the word or confuse the two, the tendency being for North Americans to use the masculine in either case, and other English-speakers to use the feminine in either case. The feminine ('blonde') is also used as a noun meaning 'a blonde woman or girl'. The French word, in turn, derives from the Latin 'BLONDVS' or 'BLVNDVS', meaning 'yellow'.

The word — with one spelling or the other — is also occasionally used to refer to objects that have a colour reminiscent of fair hair. Examples include dolls' hair, pale wood, and lager beer.

Distribution among humans

Fair hair is characteristic of the peoples of Northern Europe, particularly Scandinavia (very pale hair is often referred to as 'Nordic blond'). It is genetically associated with pale eye-colour (blue and green) and pale (and sometimes freckled) skin tone. However, red and brown hair is also very common in these regions; and, conversely, there is a small minority of blond people even among dark-skinned populations in places such as North Africa.

It is also normal for hair to darken through childhood. Caucasian babies are generally born with the slightest wisp of fair hair, and then go on to grow hair of the colour that they are genetically determined to do. Darkening can even occur relatively late in life (greying of hair is a separate issue, though). Strong sunlight also lightens hair of any pigmentation, to varying degrees.

Instinctive and cultural reactions

Dark-haired people have historically found pale hair to be striking, and often wished to emulate it. The dark-haired women of Rome, for instance, used to buy wigs made from hair from the yellow- and red-haired Germanic tribespeople that their civilisation came into contact with. In modern Western culture, the bleachinging of hair is common, especially among women.

Some research suggests that fair hair, being characteristic of young children, evokes parent-like feelings of affection and protection in others. This would explain the oft-noted association of blonde hair with prettiness and femininity, though fashions obviously also play a role. This association with children may also be the cause of the common Western stereotype against blonde women as being unintelligent.

See also: Blonde joke