28 September 2007

A Potentially Sexist Water-Cooler

I was discussing a weird language paradigm today with some work friends (this is the linguist's version of a water cooler moment). We were trying to classify the word "brunette" part of speech. Noun? Adjective? Consider the following:

He's blond
She's blonde (I only found out today that there's a gender distinction in the spelling. Freaking French and their pansy orthography)
She's a blonde woman
She's a blonde

As far as I can tell, all these examples are fine grammatically (we can discuss whether they're socially acceptable later), but what about this?

?She's brunette
She's a brunette
??She's a brunette woman

Given that I find the marked sentences grammatically gammon, I'm inclined to call the word "brunette" a noun in English, no matter what it might be in French. But apparently my grammaticality judgements are not representative of the universal use of this word (surprise surprise). Some people at the office found "she's brunette" fine and "she's a brunette woman" weird but acceptable. What the hell is going on here?

I had my first ever tournament level win at chess last night. I'm at one win, two losses and a draw after four rounds. Five rounds to go. I feel like I should write more, but I've got to go and find something to put my left over stir-fry in.

Far from home

Garry with 2 Rs
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