Friday, February 24, 2006

Life is Just A Bowl of Back-Formations

As I said, strictly speaking, the word kudos, or "glory," is singular. Over time, those unfamiliar with its Greek root mistook it for a plural, leading to what's called a "back-formation"-- in this case, kudo.

Kudo may raise some folks' linguistic hackles, but two other respectable words arose this way. In Middle English, pease (as in "pease-porridge hot") served as both the singular and plural for those little green things, deriving from the Greek word for same, pison. Many people assumed, therefore, that the singular of pease must be pea. Something similar happened when Anglo-Norman cherise wandered into Middle English. Many assumed cherise was plural, and therefore one of these tangy fruits must be a cherry.

2 Comments:

Blogger Language Lover said...

I had a foreign-born professor once who thought "lens" was plural, and kept referring to "the len" in his explanations. It was so cute. :)

10:59 AM  
Blogger Martha said...

>>> "the len"

I *LOVE* that, language lover!!! Perfect example!

I'd love to keep a list of instances like these. Anybody have others?

6:22 PM  

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