How do you pronounce “Logos” in “Logos Bible Software”? Are the O’s long or short? Should it be LAH-GAHS or LOW-GOESS? Or maybe both? LAH-GOES? LOH-GAHS?
I have the answer.
It’s “LAH-GAHS.” Both O’s are short. There. Debate over. Make this post a Wikipedia footnote, somebody.
You want reasons? Okay.
- Usage determines pronunciation. Most evangelical Christian pastors, Bible teachers, and students (the people who buy Logos products) know at least a few Greek words—words which, effectively, have become English words (among Christians, anyway). Ἀγάπη (agape) is one. Λόγος (logos) is another. It appears most famously in John 1, where Jesus is said to be the divine logos, the Word who was “with God” and who “was God.” Christians know that logos means “word,” and this is clearly what “Logos Bible Software” is getting at: putting you in contact with the words of Scripture. All Christians in my admittedly less-than-universal experience pronounce this word with two short O’s: LAH-GAHS.*
- The reason Christians do this is that their pastors did. The reason pastors do it is that their Greek teachers did. The reasons Greek teachers have for doing it are multiple, and one of them I admit I’m a little unclear on: as best I can tell after searching and reading for several years, no one knows for certain how Koine Greek words were pronounced in the time of the New Testament. So English-speaking Greek teachers have adopted the wholly salutary practice of distinguishing between omicron (Ο) and omega (Ω) by making the first short and the second long. This distinction aids learning, because students would no doubt substitute English pronunciation rules otherwise and would confuse the two letters. It’s possible that we shouldn’t be so arbitrary but should make an earnest attempt to speak Greek as Paul and Peter did. Might some exegetical or textual-critical tangle be solved by appealing to pronunciation? Perhaps, but I have almost never seen it done.
- And this gets us back to the first reason: it doesn’t matter how the Greek word was pronounced in the first century. What matters for pronunciation is what people say now. Admittedly, in the language of the non-Christian world—around which Christian theological terminology hovers on the fringe—Logos is pronounced LOH-gahs. But very few people outside the church know or care about Logos Bible Software; I say we should use the pronunciation current in the only usage community relevant to the discussion, American conservative evangelical Christianity.
- There are a few possible homonyms which, on balance, it might be best to avoid since we can: Logos is clearly not the plural of logo, as in a little image that a company uses on their signs, so LOW-GOEZ is out. It’s also clearly not the former capital of Nigeria. No LAH-GOESS.
- Dale Pritchett said it’s LAH-GAHS. (No matter that Bob Pritchett said the opposite. Honor your father.)
All that said… There’s no rule against having more than one pronunciation for a given word. I just find it a little odd that the company itself is divided… Even the two founders are. Perhaps, if Logos did an internal study, they would find that people more loyal to Dale Pritchett follow his pronunciation while others follow Bob’s. Perhaps we’re looking at a future company split, sort of like a church split, but one that rips in half the libraries of pastors everywhere! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! This problem must be solved!
*If I’m wrong about what most Christians say, then this whole post pretty much goes out the window. Perhaps I am guilty of hearing only East-Coast Christians, sort of like assuming that everyone says “pop,” unaware of the regional variations in names for soda. I think this would make a great undergraduate linguistics statistics paper.
Major Update: I wrote this post almost exactly four years before I began working at Logos Bible Software (now Faithlife) myself, something that was not on my career plan at the time. I am now a “Logos Pro,” and I became aware very quickly that there is no standard pronunciation of “Logos” here. The same person may change pronunciations in the course of a sentence. What do I make of this situation? What should people say?
Here’s my answer: people should say what best suits their ends and meets the needs of their audience. If the people to whom you’re speaking know Greek and learned it in a seminary which used a pronunciation system in which omicron is a short o (such as in the word not), then say LAH-GAHS.
But—and here’s a piece of wisdom I picked up my first day—people who don’t know Greek at all, or who haven’t been exposed to the churchified, anglicized use of the word logos, will not know by hearing it how to spell Logos unless you use two long o’s. So I’ve picked up the habit of saying LOW-GOESS, at least when it’s useful.