A faithful reader of this blog, a thoughtful copy editor at a large metropolitan daily, asks a timely question: What is the plural of “ho”?
Radio host Don Imus said that word — and some others — in describing the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. He’s still dealing with the fallout of yet another botched joke uttered into a microphone. Imus, a broadcaster, didn’t have to spell the word; that’s left to us in print and online media.
“Ho” has many meanings and uses. (“Land ho!” is an example.) The word Imus used is a derivative of “whore,” but it doesn’t appear in print often, at least not in the pages of America’s newspapers and news Web sites. That’s why we are fumbling now. Here are the options:
Seeking precedent, we turn to Google News in search of Imus stories. Consensus is hard to find, however. An AP story on the San Francisco Chronicle site uses “hos,” as does CNN.com. Media Matters, a watchdog group, favors that spelling, as does its rival, NewsBusters. The New York Times story, on the other hand, says “ho’s.” The New York Post and Chicago Tribune go with “hoes.”
Several dictionaries list “hos” and “hoes” as acceptable plurals. The apostrophe seems unnecessary, and even The New York Times is steering away from using them in similar situations.
I like “hoes” because it reads like it sounds. “Hos” could be read by the unwitting as a word that rhymes with “gloss” or “floss.” The “e” in there reduces that potential for confusion. Still, I’m open to persuasion. Anyone want to push for “ho’s” or “hos”?