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"Moreno/Morena" can refer, depending on context, either to skin color or to hair color.
When we ask, for instance, "loira ou morena?", we are referring to hair color, since "loira" is hair only: "blonde or brunette?"
On the other hand, we can say "um homem de pele morena", and it will mean a man with a skin darker than a white person. The exact tone is a mistery though.
Mulato is not offensive or derogatory in Brazil.
(update) Some people may argument though, that the origin of the word, even when totally forgotten, is offensive, thus the word itself should be considered offensive.
(Of course, one can always offend people with any word if they don't take care about what they say)
As a native American English speaker, Toby's answer is exactly right. "Mulatto" is derived from "mule" which is a cross-bred beast of burden but is commonly associated to people of mixed racial background. It is woefully offensive and should never find itself in any sort of acceptable conversation. It is absolutely not a term for brown-haired guys.
The origin of the word is not from "mule". Unfortunately that inaccurate definition made it's way into American English circles, but thankfully not elsewhere. According to Oxford (the gold standard of dictionaries) the origin comes from Arabic (introduced probably when the Moors ruled Spain). It is not offensive in either Spanish or Portuguese and is perfectly acceptable in conversation.
Mulatto: Late 16th century: from Spanish mulato, from Arabic muwallad 'person of mixed race'.
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics asked Brazilians to "self-identify" their race. One hundred and thirty-four racial categories were mentioned, including 17 variations of moreno and a few variations of mulato. A small sample:
Morena (tan) Morena-bem-chegada (very tan) Morena-cor-de-canela (cinnamon-hued brunette) Morena-jambo (dark red) Morena-escura (dark tan) Moreninha (toffeelike) Mulata (mixture of white and ❤❤❤❤❤) Mulatinha (lighter-skinned white-❤❤❤❤❤), etc
When given a more limited choice of racial classifications, Brazilians chose to identify as 46%, white; 34%, brown; 11%, black; 3.7%, yellow; 5.7%, indigenous, etc.
I speak something very close to standard newscaster U.S. English. I have and would call a brown-haired man brunette. I'm a total bookworm, but I have never seen the variant 'brunet.' I would not recognize it. At best I'd assume it was a spelling error.
Maybe it's one of those male/female distinctions lost to time. I don't differentiate between blonde and blond according to gender, either, though at least I would not wonder if one was a typo.
The "ette" ending is a feminine diminutive ending from French, so it's not technically correct for men (nor is "blonde"). English borrowed the ending for words like "suffragette" (which refers to women) but also for "kitchenette" (which refers to kitchens). So there are some almost-gender-neutral usages, but generally it's just for women/girls, and not that common. To refer to men in English, we would say "He has brown hair" (or "he's brown-haired")--and yes, in the U.S. descriptions of skin color are tricky.
If you wanted to translate "moreno" into English you'd probably have to use more/different descriptions, depending on what characteristic you're talking about: e.g., "He's Latino," or "He's mixed-race, with one black and one white parent" or "His skin is darker than mine" or whatever.
(I'm a native English speaker & have taught EFL and ESL.)
I'd argue that borrowed words often do not retain their original grammar or nuances. A huge portion of our vocabulary was imported via French and much of that came from Latin, but we aren't using the Latin-esque declensions (thank goodness).
I have never taught English in any formal way, but I was born in Chicago and have lived in that area most of my life. I'll concede that I am probably more likely to describe a man as brown-haired, but I have and will continue to occasionally use "brunette" instead. When speaking English, I don't particularly care about the grammar of import words.
It's not just French or a question of ignorance. I studied Japanese for years and still say "kimonos" to refer to more than one kimono when speaking English. It just sounds odd to say, "Those kimono are beautiful."
I speak only for myself, but depending on context there's a pretty good chance I would not recognize it as related to "brunette" if not for this discussion. I would have assumed it was a mistake either way, unless maybe if it appeared in a novel by Dan Simmons, Vocabulary Author, whose books I read with my electronic Japanese dictionary close at hand. (It has a very thorough English dictionary as well. And Sudoku.)
For the record, my mom, born in California and raised more or less all over the country, agrees with you guys. She would not use "brunette" (or "brunet") to describe a man and does not think it sounds natural.
Myself, I plan to kick reason to the curb and go beyond the normal thing. By which I mean I plan to keep calling men "brunette" when the spirit so moves me.
EFL = "English as a Foreign Language"
ESL = "English as a Second Language"
There is a lot of constroversy going on about "brunette" and "brunet".
Even dictionaries don't seem to agree completely. I think it depends on which region we are talking about.
We've found out that any option we choose will cause complaints. Some say that a man should be "brunet". Some say that "brunet" doesn't exist, it should be "brunette" also for men. Some say that this word shouldn't be used for men at all.
According to one source I read the meaning of the noun/adjective "moreno/a" varies throughout Brazil. In the South it is more like "brunette (brunet)" in English and refers to hair colour and in the North it is more likely to refer to a dark skin colour. Most Brazilian Dictionaries I've seen mention both possibilities although the definitions have subtle differences:
Diz-se de, ou quem tem cabelos negros e pele um pouco escura;
Designação irônica ou eufemística que se dá aos pretos e mulatos.
Que, ou aquele que tem cor trigueira;
Diz-se do, ou o indivíduo de raça branca que tem cabelos negros ou escuros.
Houaiss (not freely available online)
Que ou quem tem a pele azeitonada ou amarronzada;
Que ou aquele cuja cor de cabelo varia entre o castanho-escuro e o preto.
One insists that only women can be referred to by their hair colour (which seems to match typical English practice):
I guess you're right, but some British dictionaries still associate the noun "blonde" solely with women: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/blonde
Certainly "Gentlemen prefer blondes" was unambiguous once upon a time.
That's not true - I'm from the UK and ginger is always pronounced 'gin-ger'. It's usually not a rude term - it's perfectly OK to say that someone has ginger hair. The only time people do say 'ging-er' is when they're purposefully being rude, and it's not correct - it's slang (and it's not done very often at all).
Ginger- Nope, and I still don't know it, because it sounds like a regional slang pejorative pronunciation, not remotely common, and certainly not anything remotely official. I've been a ginger visiting in the UK and heard the word frequently, but never with that pronunciation.
You can't use "moreno" with "hair/cabelo" - that's why it's not in the sentence.
You can't say Ele tem cabelo moreno - moreno isn't a color you can apply to anything, it's an adjective you apply specifically to a person. You would never say a brown dog is "moreno" or anything like that.
There's only one exception for this that I can think of (and it also explains why it can mean skin tone too): you can say Ele tem pele morena (He has brown skin), although it sounds a little weird to my ears, I've seen/heard it before. More common would be simply "Ele é moreno".
You are totally right about "grammar"!
You only apply moreno to the "words" for people or skin. Never to the "word" hair.
Nevertheless, you can say "pessoa morena" referring to hair color. It's vastly common to compare white girls with "loira ou morena?", while both have white skin and you are talking about hair only.
English adopts many words from other languages. In this case, the word brunet/brunette originates from French. French has two genders (masculine and feminine).
In English, the pronunciation of "brunet" and "brunette" is the same. So when you hear the words spoken in English you would not realize the spelling difference. However, the French pronunciation is different and when you hear the French pronunciation, you would realize a difference in spelling.
Another example can be found in blond/blonde. Having the same pronunciation but different spellings in both English & French.
She is blonde He is blond
If Rosetta Stone teaches morenO is brunette, they would be wrong. It is classed as a spelling mistake.
"He has dark hair" shouldn't be accepted. many brazilians is confused about this too, but moreno is not a hair color.
brown hair is 'cabelo castanho' and black hair is 'cabelo preto'. never moreno.
ele é moreno = he's brunet.
I'm white as snow and my hair is 'castanho'. am I brunet (morena)? no, I'm white (branca).
also, I could be brunet (skin) and blond (hair).
how about 'he is colored'? I know in US English it is considered a racial slur by some, but in SA English it is used to indicate people of mixed ancestry, right? I believe in Brazil 'moreno' is used for people with an 'in between' skin color, right? so I thought colored would make sense as a translation. (DL counted colored wrong, btw.)
You are absolutely correct, "COLORED" itself is NOT a racial slur! IN fact the USA has a group called NAACP; national association for the advancement of colored people!!! Basically it represents non "White" people! No racism implied! I'm considered"white" BUT I'm certainly NOT WHITE, just NOT colored! I'm NOT insulted! People are funny and categorization and names have changed radically over time.......go figure! :/
NAACP was founded in 1909 when the term "colored" was acceptable. For legal reasons, the organization has maintained that name. "❤❤❤❤❤" is also a term fraught with ambiguity and is not often used in the US.
A television personality had to apologize for referring to someone as "colored":
(noun) a person having brown or black hair and often a relatively dark complexion.
(adjective) of a dark brown or black color.
—spelled brunet when used of a boy or man and usually brunette when used of a girl or woman.
Duolingo is based on American English and this seems to be an American English word which is either taken directly from French or is a simplified spelling of brunette (brunet and brunette have the same pronunciation in American English).
There are two types of people in the world: Brazilians and gringos. :-)
http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/noticias/2014/02/140213_coluna_timvickery_gringo_dg I admit I get most of my knowledge of Brazil from him, he's on the media a lot here, and he says he finds it offensive, and he's lived there 20+ years and has a Brazilian family, so he's not a blow-in. These conflicts happen a lot between English-speaking cultures and 'latin' ones, there seems to be a cultural brickwall meaning we'll never agree.
I'm from Canada and also speak German (bet you thought I was going to say French - I do speak French). When speaking English we only refer to women as brunettes. We do not say a man is a brunet probably because the sound is significantly different (brunet is pronounced Broon-Eh, no "T" sound at the end). When refering to skin colour we do not use either word.