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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 blonde hair.
"Blond", with its continued gender-varied usage, is one of few adjectives in written English to retain separate masculine and feminine grammatical genders.
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", The hair color gene MC1R has at least seven variants in Europe, giving the continent a wide range of hair and eye shades.
Based on a genetic research carried out at three Japanese universities, the date of the genetic mutation that resulted in blond hair in Europe has been isolated to about 11,000 years ago during the last ice age.
The masculine version is used in the plural, in "blonds of the European race", Another hair color word of French origin, brunet(te) (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." "Blond" and "blonde" are also occasionally used to refer to objects that have a color reminiscent of fair hair.
A typical explanation found in the scientific literature for the evolution of light hair is related to the evolution of light skin, and in turn the requirement for vitamin D synthesis and northern Europe's seasonal less solar radiation.
The resultant visible hue depends on various factors, but always has some sort of yellowish color.
Each of the two forms, however, is 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." 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 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).
On the Fischer–Saller scale, blond color ranges from A (light blond) to O (dark blond).
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 French population has blond or light brown hair.