Monday, April 09, 2007

I am not talking about garden implements!

The continuing controversy over broadcaster Don Imus's comments has had a beneficial side effect for me: I can spell a new word! Maybe.

The New York Times reports that Imus's offense was to call the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed ho's." Now, if we break it down, "ho's" is the plural form, and we come up with the singular form ho' (the apostrophe cannot, of course, be part of a pluralization, unless done incorrectly). This would make sense, since the word omits the following "r" sound of the original ancestor word. However, were the singular to be spelled ho, then ho's is a clear grammatical error.

AP, via, disagrees with NYT, however, using the plural "hos." This form seems to leave open the dangerous possibility of pronouncing the word "hoss," as in "Ol' Hoss."

How, exactly, are these cases decided at a newspaper? Majority vote? Or is the word ho' really in somebody's Style Guide?

Addendum: In no way do I condone the comments Imus made, by the way, but I haven't followed it closely so I have nothing to add to that discussion; there's plenty in the mass media. To me, honestly the more interesting aspect is this linguistic one.

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