Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thinking About Words: Part 1 "Snafu" and "Kudos"

Words can be fun. 

That sentiment sounds like the title of a 1960’s era elementary school textbook. 

But in fact, some of us consider it fun to contemplate word origin, usage and history of words. 

A previous blog post warned against “Blah Blah” words commonly found in marketing and there are plenty of those around in b-to-b marketing-speak.  Blah blah text sneaks into too much of my marketing copywriting like “leverage”, “world-class”, “industry leading” and other blah blah terms.

This time, though, the fun comes from thinking about the origin of words.  

For this first installment of the recurring “Thinking About Words” blog posting, let’s focus on two words, shall we? Snafu and Kudos…

The word “Snafu” seems to occur regularly in my conversations in an average week.  I just heard it today at a meeting.  It’s a fun word to say, and most dictionaries define it as “chaotic or confused situation” or “in a state of confusion or chaos”. Snafu can also refer to a bad situation, mistake, or cause of trouble.

What might not be commonly known is that SNAFU is an acronym that stands for Situation Normal: All F***end up. Removing the foul word, it can also stand for Situation Normal All Fouled Up.

According to various online research, the acronym originated in the US Army during World War II.

Who knew?

Kudos is another word one hears in a range of settings.  

Kudos is loosely based on a Greek word meaning "praise" or “good job” or even “well done”.  Online research from “Take Our Word” website notes the term entered English as university slang.  The first known recorded use of kudos comes from 1831. 

Interestingly, folks in the UK pronounce the word Kudos as "cue-doss" while in America it is "koo-doze". 

If taking a wild guess, I would have thought Kudos had its origins in Latin. Yet digging a bit deeper shows it is basically a co-opted American slang-word.

Looking for More?

As you undoubtedly agree after wading through this blog post, it can be fun (a time-waster, but fun nonetheless) thinking about words. 

Want to think some more? Then be sure to visit one of the web’s leading resources on all things words - Wordnik.

Wordnik bills itself as “a place for all the words, and everything known about them.” And they do a great job in that regard

Check out the “Word of the Day” just for fun. 

Wordnik goes to town with other word-related info.  For example, this page about the word “Kudos” features a chart detailing the number of occurrences of the word "kudos" per million words from the 1800’s to today.  How do they know this stuff?

1 comment:

  1. Snafu! Sounds like a candy bar or some yummy dessert.

    I thought that the word kudos just came out of nowhere, but who knew that it had Latin origins!

    Lovely post, Julie. I'm glad you try to stay away from blah-blah words otherwise I might go a little crazy. Overused buzzwords give me a headache. :)