May 07 2005

Adventures In Modern American English

KudosAs a public service intended to multiply the joys of erudition on the World Wide Web, and for those of my fellow writers who despair of getting caught in a grammar-don’t yet whose congested dance cards do not permit intimate daily tangos with Fowler, Twistyfaster.com brings you this geeky Word Usage Alert. For your convenience, I include an even geekier Punctuation Advisory gratis.

[Note: I perform this duty at great personal risk, since the probability of committing a usage error while explaining a usage error is 1.]

Please consider the following quotation from yesterday’s Americablog, which makes me laugh and cry at the same time:

Kudos are due to the Microsoft employees who took a stand to make their company do the right thing…again.

I. Right away we detect the horrible ellipsis, that plague upon Internet discourse which is second in ghastliness only to the poor, deluded anti-Capitalites who mistake an unwillingness to engage the shift key for an element of style. My advice on the ellipsis is this: unless you’re an expert, shun it like a Baptist shuns a Democrat. Even world-class literati confine their ellipsing to quotations from which words have been omitted. It is too often deployed by lazy butt-munches who don’t feel like finishing their sentences and who appear, as a result, incapable of fully articulating the sense of their ideas. They’re dragging us all down!

The writer of our example sentence teeters on the precipice of the Dark Side when he uses the ellipsis as an emphatic device. In this instance, the worthy dash (–) would have conveyed his meaning more forcefully than a namby-pamby row of suspension points.

II. Kudos, my dear onions, is not a plural English word meaning "congratulations." It is a singular Greek word meaning "glory." The "s" at the end is just part of the word, like the "g" in "douchebag;" it conveys no special circumstance of plurality. Furthermore, it is pronounced voicelessly, "sssss," rather than with a "z" sound.

Likewise, there is no such thing as a "kudo."

If the correct phrase "Kudos is due the Microsoft employees" grates on your delicate ears, cut the verb, or better yet, eliminate the kudos altogether. In American English, the word has a very dorky feel, is tepid in tone, and, by evoking a cheap candy bar, fails to convey the ardor and gravitas appropriate to the occasion. Thus, "We lavish praise on the Microsoft employees."

We certainly do. 

1 comment

  1. Melly Sa

    Wasn’t Kudos also the name of a brand of pre-packaged granola bar back in the 80s? Maybe that’s where the author gets the idea that Kudos is plural–or does s/he mean that Microsoft should shower their employees in oatey, chocolate-coated 1980s goodness?

Comments have been disabled.