• brunet •
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Having dark brown hair and eyes or a person with these traits. 2. Dark complexioned or a dark complexioned person.
Notes: How should we spell today's Good Word: brunet or brunette? The general rule is that brunet refers to a male (boy or man) or to a person of unspecified gender (male or female). Brunette is reserved for females only, in a class of dwindling "feminine" nouns like majorette, coquette, and even the very new bachelorette. The abstract nouns brunetness and brunetteness are synonyms today. Of course, to refer to a person, simply use these adjectives themselves as nouns: a brunet, the brunette.
In Play: Because there are more brunets than blondes, Westerners tend to find them less interesting: "Poor Gloria Street can't understand how blondes have more fun when there are far, far more brunets out there trying." Well, blondes may have more fun but brunets probably have more sensible clothes. The problem lies in determining exactly how many blondes are out there since many ostensible blondes are brunets incognito. ;-)
Word History: Today's word is a diminutive of Old French brun "brown" (meaning "somewhat brown"), which was identical to the Old English word for "brown", brun. In fact, Old French may have borrowed this one from us. The root of the word is identical to the Proto-Indo-European root for (to) bear (bher-, which we discussed in yesterday's Word History. So etymologists are not surprised that the English word for "a bear" is bear, too, since it was originally the word for "brown". Those Vikings known for going especially berserk on their raids were called berserkers, a compound noun from the related Old Norse word björn "bear" + serkr "shirt". They wore no armor, only bearskin clothing. Some English speaker then went berserk in the 1820s and borrowed this word, as if we needed another one. (Today's Good Word emerged from a discussion between Elizabeth Claridge and her husband, neither of whom shared their hair-color[ing] with us.)
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