Friday, February 24, 2006

Why I Didn't Say "A Big Kudo to Our Quizzicist"

The reason I didn't offer a great big kudo to our deserving Quizzicist is this: Not long ago, there was no such thing as a kudo. Our word kudos was lifted directly from Greek, where kudos means "magical glory." Later, English speakers sometimes mistook kudos as a plural, forming kudo as the singular. These days only the biggest sticklers insist on sticking to the original singular, kudos. Call me old-fashioned, but I like nodding to the original Greek here, and will lavish kudos on you if you do, too. More in the American Heritage and Merriam-Webster, which disagrees with me. What do you think?


Anonymous daz said...

So to help encourage folks to think of kudos as a singular, what should we be using as its English plural?




11:54 PM  
Blogger Martha said...

Hahaha. I KNEW some smart-aleck would ask that. I'm not sure it Does have a plural. I mean, how would you use whichever version in a sentence with a plural verb?

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Eltjim said...


Great blog! However, shouldn't the sentence read "...will lavish a kudos on you..." vice "...will lavish kudos on you...", if "kudos" is indeed singular?



1:26 PM  
Blogger Martha said...

Hi, Jim --

I confess I hesitated over that, but was thinking of "lavishing kudos" the way one might "lavish praise." Wouldn't that work?

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Eltjim said...


That works (i.e., lavashing praise, kudos, etc).

BTW, I was listening to a podcast of the show that originally started this post ("Shakespeare") and thought I might throw in the following on the "expiry" issue.

I've noticed that in my reading and travels (both in the physical world and on the 'net), that "expiry" normally appears in foreign countries (primarily those of the British Commonwealth). For example, most monetary transactions I've conducted with companies in these countries use the term "expiry" versus "expiration date."


6:40 PM  
Blogger Martha said...

Good point about British English, Jim. From what I can tell, you're right. (I still think it sounds odd, but I'm betting we'll hear it more and more, don't you think?)

7:38 AM  
Anonymous daz said...

The online M-W Collegiate gives one def. of kudos as praise, so treating it collectively, as Marth says, seems to resolve the potential plural problem.

Which brings to mind a related situation, but with a word that has no such excuse:
anathema. Since "an anathema" is a tongue-twister, most instances simply omit the indefinite article. But that always sounds wrong to me. What say you, Martha?

7:33 AM  
Anonymous daz said...

P.S. Hmm, one thought about anathema is that wiithin a century or two, it may keep its meaning but evolve to "athema".

7:35 AM  
Blogger Martha said...

Very interesting questions, daz. I grew up hearing "an anathema," sort of like "an abomination," but looking at the OED just now, I see an awful lot of an-less citations, all the way back to the 1500s.

I never thought about anathema losing its own "an," but now that you mention it, I think that's quite possible over time -- especially if its increasingly disengaged from its ecclesiastical roots. Wow.

I guess that's "a whole nother" question, eh? What do you think about the likelihood of that happening?

6:56 PM  

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