In a word: kudos

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word: 


The Greeks, if you recollect your Homer, were much concerned with glory, fame, and renown, for which they had a particular word, kudos. English, that magpie language, lifted the word intact from the Greek, with the same meaning. It is, oddly, a latecomer to the language, the first citation listed in the OED coming from 1831. 

Of course, we could not leave it alone. Particularly in America, there is a widespread sense that the Greek singular is an English plural. Some theorize that the appearance of the word kudo can be laid at the door of Time magazine, which used to list honorary degrees under the heading "KUDOS," leaving the impression that the word must be plural. 

A typical example, from a 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle: "True, some kudos go JPII's way for opposing the death penalty and advocating human rights. ..."

Whatever the etymology, it has lodged in the language. If, however, you use kudo, you may well be marked down as a barbarian, a word that originally meant "uncultured" and "non-Greek-speaking."

Your pronunciation will reveal which side you take. If you say 'KU-dose," we will conclude that you mean singular glory. If you say "KU-doze," we will assume that you are talking about a plural.

Example: From an 1859 letter from Charles Darwin: "Lyell has read about half of the volume in clean sheets, and gives me very great kudos."



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