Monday, April 21, 2014

Political Correctness in Writing

If you write contemporary fiction, this post is for you. If you write only historical fiction, please ignore. 

A colleague recently asked me about the blond vs. blonde conundrum. While I've addressed this on The Grammar Cop (Blonde is slang, used as a noun; blond is an adjective), it occurs to me the issue resolves itself with political correctness. No longer do we refer to females as stewardesses, waitresses, or actresses. They are flight attendants, servers, and actors, same as their male counterparts.Your will has a personal representative, not an executrix or executor. 

Blonde is defined as a woman who has blond hair. It's slang for a sexy or glamorous woman with blond hair. There is no word for a man who has blond hair, so why do we need "blonde?" Short answer: We don't. Lose it.

Please don't buy into the explanation that women have blonde hair while men have blond hair, at least if you live in the United States. While the "e" denotes gender in some languages, it doesn't apply to English. I have a daughter named Lynn. Not Lynne. And she's as feminine as any woman I know. My nickname is Cheri (Originally French), not Cherie. I am a female, but I live in America. Gender distinctions are outmoded.

(Too bad Starbucks didn't get that message. They refer to their light roast coffee as "Blonde Roast." But I overlook the name since it's my favorite brew.)

Other politically incorrect or obsolete terms include master bedroom. It's now owner's bedroom. Master is mindful of serfdom and slavery. Again, obsolete. 

If you use MS Word, enable your spelling and grammar review programs (under Options). Any outdated or insensitive word or phrase should be underlined for your attention.

Happy writing, authors (no more authoresses!).


Elizabeth Sinclair said...

Well, that clears that up. I never could keep them straight. Thanks.

Virginia Kelly said...

If we point at a blond guy, and say "the blond over there." It's still blond not blonde?

Cheryl Norman said...

Technically, you shouldn't do that because you're using blond as a noun and there is no noun for blond haired man. But if it's in dialog, all bets are off. We all say things--in fiction and real life--that's not "proper" speech.

Vickie said...

Thanks, Cheri. I always get the blond/blonde mixed up. Great blog!

Anonymous said...

Blonde is a pet peeve with me. Redhead is another term that's slang and shouldn't be used. It's "red-haired" not redhead.

Thanks for the post!

Polly McCrillis said...

Interesting how not everyone in the writing world has gotten the memo about "blonde" and "master bedroom". I'm reading a romance/suspense novel released in 11/2013 written by one of those top ten NYTimes best sellers and she's used both terms. I'd assume the Penguin Group has a pretty top-notch group of editors. Maybe by the time you get to her level of literary stardom the political correctness is a moot point!

Cheryl Norman said...

Polly, here's what OED says:
The spellings blonde and blond correspond to the feminine and masculine forms in French. Although the distinction is often retained in Britain, American usage since the 1970s has generally preferred the gender-neutral blond. The adjective blonde may still refer to a woman’s (but not a man’s) hair color, although use of the noun risks offense ( see that blonde over there?): the offense arises from the fact that the color of hair is not the person. The adjective applied to inanimate objects (such as wood or beer) is typically spelled blond.