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The OED defines blond (noun) as:

  • A person with blond hair; one with light or ‘fair’ hair and the corresponding complexion; esp. a woman, in which case spelt blonde.
  • 1822 Edin. Rev. 199 Brenda, the laughing blue-eyed blonde.

Other sources suggest that "blonde" as a noun should be avoided as it may sound sexist and offensive:

Blonde:

  • Blonde may be used to describe a woman’s hair, but it is sometimes considered offensive to refer to a woman as ‘a blonde’ because hair colour should not define what a person is like. (OLD)
  • The use of blonde as a noun in reference to a female with blonde hair is best avoided because it can be interpreted as sexist. (The Grammarist)

Questions:

  • When did the the noun "blonde" acquire a negative connotation"?
  • Is it still nowadays better to avoid referring to a woman as "a blonde"?
  • Are there differences in this respect between AmE vs BrE?
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    It is no good looking in the OED - their most recent example of the noun blonde is from 1858. But yes, in Britain use of the noun blonde for a woman would be considered sexist in correct circles. A similar problem arises with the term Essex girl, which has come to imply far more than a girl who happens to live in Essex.
    – WS2
    Jan 8 '16 at 23:39
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    @Mari-LouA - Italian "bionda" does not carry the negative connotation that English dictionaries suggest treccani.it/vocabolario/bionda. I am referring to "a blonde" without an adjective as it appears that you don't need one to look offensive or sexist. An adjective would modify (positively or negatively) any noun. A dumb brunette. But does "a brunette" sound offensive?
    – user66974
    Jan 9 '16 at 7:15
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    @Mari-LouA Describing a woman simply as a brunette seems equally boorish to me. One is simply describing someone by one aspect of their physical appearance. Now if I describe someone as An Italian linguist, with intelligence, charm and wit - then that's a different matter.
    – WS2
    Jan 9 '16 at 10:03
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    blond was never offensive per se. What an idea. It has been used in an offensive manner in the contexts everyone seems to have already mentioned. I refuse to bow to the PC POLICE. :)
    – Lambie
    Apr 1 '21 at 15:45
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    Calling someone a blonde is reductive, but describing hair as blonde is not by itself the same thing. May 3 '21 at 12:41
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From this Slate.com(1) article titled "When Did Blondes Get So Dumb?"

Probably since the late 19th century. In 1868, a British burlesque troupe began performing a spoof of the Ixion myth at the Wood's Museum theater in New York City. Featuring four blondes prancing around in tights, Ixion became an absolute sensation and outraged moralists who felt the girls were talentless wretches celebrated only for their bodies. The Ixion actresses were commonly referred to as the "British Blondes," but at some point in the ensuing decade, the term "dizzy blonde" started cropping up: slang for the sort of risqué stage performer that the Brits had helped make popular, and more generally for "professional" beauties, with "dizzy" meaning foolish or stupid. Hence in 1889 the Kansas Times and Star noted, "Many of the local clergy last night warned the church members against a 'Dizzy Blonde' company coming to one of the theaters soon

(1) Slate is a daily magazine on the Web. Founded in 1996, it is a general-interest publication offering analysis and commentary about politics, news, business, technology, and culture.

It's why artificial intelligence is a technique that consists of dyeing blond hair brown.

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    Instead of saying from this "article" why not provide its name? Citations must be properly attributed. And I don't understand the last line, is that your comment? A brown-haired woman who changes the colour of her hair is called dumb because she employs "artificial intelligence" in order to achieve her aim?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 9 '16 at 6:58
  • @Mari-LouA - I edited my answer - Last line in one of the thousands jokes about "blondes".
    – Graffito
    Jan 9 '16 at 12:53
  • Oh, it's a joke!? Not very good one. Slate magazine is very well known in the US and on the net. Christopher Hitchens used to write for it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 9 '16 at 13:01
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    -1. While the last line of this answer is no doubt intended as a joke, it's not funny, it's offensive. It's simply a reworking of the insulting and discriminatory proposition that people with a certain physical characteristic have lower intelligence. Substitute a nationality or racial description (or gender, or sexual preference, or religious group, etc) for "blonde" and the offence becomes obvious. May 2 '21 at 22:55
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    @ChappoHasn'tForgottenMonica It's a joke... nobody believes jokes... I remember those... in my day we used to tell them.
    – Greybeard
    May 3 '21 at 17:09
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In general, nouning an adjective runs the risk of sounding offensive. Compare "John is a gay" or "We have to make sure the gays like it too" to "John is gay" or "We have to make sure the gay customers like it too." So saying "She is a blonde" would be a little rude even if there was no insult associated with blonde-ness. But there is (as the other answer details) and so making it a noun is a bad thing.

This is not the same as "you can't say blonde". "I love how that sweater contrasts with your blonde hair" is fine between people who discuss appearance and clothing choices like that. "She looks amazing with blonde hair" is fine in contexts where your opinion on how she looks are ok, which isn't all of them. But calling someone "a blonde" is not that. Further, suggesting that a moment of bad judgement, forgetfulness, or distraction is "a blonde moment" or someone "being blonde" is offensive even when blonde is being an adjective.

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That is ridiculous. Blonde is not offensive and if we start treating it like an offensive word, it's going to offend me--someone who is blonde. It is factual and descriptive and there's no need to become overly sensitive all the time. Calling someone a "dumb blonde" is offensive because of the word "dumb." Furthermore, this is a silly trope constructed by movies and culture. We change it by just moving past it. And if someone wants to refer to you as "dumb," just find better friends. We don't have to tiptoe around these details and act like we're sensitive babies all the time.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Oct 27 '21 at 0:54
  • There is a good answer in here but there's a lot of extraneous social judgement. See the varied answers at Is it offensive to call a redhead a ginger. Though the answers there tend towards 'yes it's offensive', your answer is more likely, the word itself is not the problem it is 'dumb' or. the context that is offensive, the word itself doesn't have the connotations. Also 'a ginger', a UK word, does have derogatory implications, whereas in the US 'a blonde' doesn't but is a bit old fashioned though.
    – Mitch
    Oct 27 '21 at 10:57

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