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

Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Wed Jun 10 02:01:15 UTC 2015

Great finds! I've added an appropriate comment to the Visual Thesaurus 


On 6/8/2015 3:35 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Backformation: "so many kudos" (Nov 1903); "one single kudo" (Jan
>                1926)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Today Benjamin Dreyer (Managing Editor & Copy Chief at Random House)
> sent the following tweet of exasperation to his followers:
> [Begin tweet]
> Benjamin Dreyer =E2=80=8F at 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."
> http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kudo
> [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.
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2013-February/125342.html
> http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/dictionary/kudomania/
> 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
> https://books.google.com/books?id=3Dpzc8AQAAMAAJ&q=3Dkudos#v=3Dsnippet&
> [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]
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Dr. Neal Whitman
Lecturer, ESL Composition
School of Teaching and Learning
College of Education and Human Ecology
Arps Hall
1945 North High Street
whitman.11 at osu.edu
(614) 260-1622

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

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