New Development for Backformed Kudo
Posted by Neal on January 2, 2013
A couple of years ago, in a post about the backformation of the Boy Scouting-related singular noun Webelo from Webelos, I mentioned the similar backformation of kudo from the Greek borrowing kudos. Here are a couple of examples from COCA (the source of all the other examples in this post, except as noted):
- And there was a little kudo called the Award of Merit
- One even resulted in the ultimate scientific kudo.
The OED has kudo from as far back as 1941, though I’m not so sure about that citation. But their 1950 citation is a clear example:
A man sitting on a toilet bowl swung open the men’s room door and added his kudo to the acclaim.
This backformation is the most obvious sign that someone thinks of kudos as a plural, but other clues can be detected even in the absence of the giveaway form kudo:
- Pronunciation of the s in kudos as [z], as if it were the plural marker
- Lengthening of the /o/ before this [z] — the same difference you hear in the pronunciation of gross [groʊs] and grows [groʊːz]
- Plural verb agreement when kudos is the subject of a clause:
- Kudos go to San Diegobased Qualcomm Corporate Foundation.
- Critical kudos acknowledge the success of her approach.
- Use of count-noun determiners with kudos:
- Many kudos for the essay by guest host Sharon Paul
- A few kudos to get you started
Three months ago, I saw another step in the development of backformed kudo: its use as the modifying part of a compound noun. Compound nouns usually, but not always, have a singular as their first element — the noun that modifies the head noun. For example, we have gumball machines, not gumballs machines. So even someone who might never have occasion to reveal a backformation by talking about “one rabie” might well talk about attaching rabie tags to their pets’ collars. Similarly, in the October 5, 2012 issue of Entertainment Weekly, there was this sentence about TV’s Emmy awards:
The last time nipple covers, shrimp truckers, and demented garden gnomes were mentioned during an Emmy telecast was the year 19 hundred and … never. But that’s what made the 64th annual kudofest on Sept. 23 so engrossing–if a tad bewildering. (“Best and Worst of the Awards,” Lynette Rice, p. 21)
COCA provides two more such examples, also from EW, and also about award shows:
- He predicts a shiny night for four-Buckle nominee Brad Paisley, forecasts Sugarland to win Video of the Year for ” All I Want to Do, ” and believes that this kudocast will appeal to those beyond the country-fried set. (2009)
- If you loved seeing Jack Black … rock the children silly on the big screen, you might contract a case of the giggles watching him host this kiddie kudocast (say that 10 times fast). (2006)
However, I’ve discovered that kudo isn’t always a backformation. If you’re talking about mixed martial arts, it’s a portmanteau of karate and judo!