What’s the Plural of Quid Pro Quo?

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

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.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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