[Ads-l] Backformation: "so many kudos" (Nov 1903); "one single kudo" (Jan 1926)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 8 19:35:26 UTC 2015

Today Benjamin Dreyer (Managing Editor & Copy Chief at Random House)
sent the following tweet of exasperation to his followers:

[Begin tweet]
Benjamin Dreyer ‏@BCDreyer 7h7 hours ago
"Ruthie Ann Miles nabbed a kudo" oh my god please stop.
9:19 AM - 8 Jun 2015
[End tweet]

This tweet inspired me to search for early examples of singular "kudo"
and plural "kudos". I located "so many kudos" in November 1903 and
"one single kudo" in January 1926. Context suggested, to me, that the
1926 citation was jocular. (Details are given further below). The
search was shallow, so antedatings are likely.

The Oxford English Dictionary has a pertinent entry with citations
that begin in 1941. The Merriam-Webster website has a usage note about
"kudo" that states: "By the 1920s it began to appear as a plural, and
about 25 years later kudo began to appear."


[Begin excerpt]
Usage Discussion of KUDO
Some commentators hold that since kudos is a singular word it cannot
be used as a plural and that the word kudo is impossible. But kudo
does exist; it is simply one of the most recent words created by
back-formation from another word misunderstood as a plural. Kudos was
introduced into English in the 19th century; it was used in contexts
where a reader unfamiliar with Greek could not be sure whether it was
singular or plural. By the 1920s it began to appear as a plural, and
about 25 years later kudo began to appear. It may have begun as a
misunderstanding, but then so did cherry and pea.
[End excerpt]

In 2013 Neal Whitman posted to the ADS list a message titled
"Antedatings of kudocast, kudofest, kudo" which pointed to an
excellent article he wrote for Visual Thesaurus. He referred to the
kudo/kudos citations in the OED.


Date: November 17, 1903
Periodical: The Photographic News: For Amateur Photographers
Article: Exhibitions: Edinburgh Photographic Society
Start Page 775, Quote Page 775
Publisher: Published by the Proprietors, Charing Cross Road, London


[Begin excerpt]
Alex. Allan, Ratho Station, in "Figure Study," which gains him a
medal, has returned to the subject which previously gained him so many
kudos--old woman.
[End excerpt]

Date: January 1926
Periodical: The American Mercury
Article: Hearst Comes to Atlanta
Author: Herbert Asbury
Start Page 87, Quote Page 95
Database: Unz

[Begin excerpt]
To my mind the passage of this bill was the finest thing that any
Hearst newspaper had ever accomplished, and Hearst should have
received much kudos for it, even though, unless Speed reported to him,
he knew nothing of it except what he read in the newspapers. It was
Speed's idea from start to finish. But neither Hearst nor the Georgian
received one single kudo.
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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