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No such honor

Listening to NPR earlier today, I heard a reporter refer to the “Congressional Medal of Honor,” a common error. There is no such decoration, however frequently the term may crop up in casual use.

The decoration is the Medal of Honor, which is awarded “in the name of Congress.” It dates from 1862. There is, confusingly, a Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which received that name in a charter from Congress in 1958. But the society scrupulously refers to the medal as the Medal of Honor. So should NPR. And so should you.


Posted by John McIntyre at 3:21 PM | | Comments (10)


There are, however, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Hmm. I'm thinking that since the MoH is awarded in the name of congress, it is a congressional award, but not a Congressional award.

Or maybe I'm all wet.

You are not all wet, just damp like many of us.

The subject came up at my newspaper recently. It seemed to some of us (OK, me) that "congressional" should be used.

I was wrong.

Medal of Honor is correct.

George said that Harry received the "Congressional Medal of Honor for saving every man on that transport." That was in 1946. That's good enough for me.

The act of Congress naming it not good enough for you, eh?

John, thanks for setting this one straight. And one does not "win" this decoration; one "receives" or "is awarded" the Medal of Honor.

Your readers also may not know that it is customary for all ranks to salute a Medal of Honor recipient, even if the one offering the salute outranks the recipient.

Clarence is the angel in "It's a Wonderful Life" right?

"Teacher says, 'Every time you hear a bell ring, an angel gets his Congressional Medal of Honor.'"

John, I have to say that for one who defends common usage, this is somewhat picayune. It appears from your own writing that there is evidence to support this age-old "mistake." It is the Medal of Honor, and it is Congressional, so why not?

So would it be more proper to say,"Medal of Honor awarded by Congress" than "Congressional Medal of Honor"?
Both, almost, have the same menaing to me?

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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