What’s the Plural of Quid Pro Quo?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

If you’re keeping count, which you should be (or leaning on us to count for you), there are now three quid pro quos in President Donald Trump’s orbit of impeachable corruption, or one giant quid pro quo with three distinct parts. We’ve named and itemized them, but is the plural quid pro quos or quids pro quo? Or quae pro quibus? Or quæ with the squished dipthong? Trump’s multiplying misconduct and favor-for-favor political dirt dealing are straining not just Congress’ enforcement of the Constitution, but copy editors’ enforcement of style guides. What’s an editor to do when the Associated Press Stylebook and Webster’s dictionary appear silent on the most pressing plural question of our time? You appeal to a classics professor.

“I would say quid pro quos, personally,” says Andrew Garrett, professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, in response to an email I subject-lined “on deadline.” “Nobody would get a Latin plural” like quae pro quibus, which “would entail more than one thing for more than one thing,” he says. “If we’re talking about Ukraine, is it one thing (a visit) for more than one (two investigations? or just one?)—or two things (also aid) for one (one investigation)?”

Let’s rule out quae (nominative plural) pro quibus (ablative plural) and quæ pro quibus. Two down. What about quids pro quo, like attorneys general? I could deep-dive the etymology there, but Professor Garrett was kind enough (and in transit). I’m not going to email agæn. Verdict: quid pro quos.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate