input and output -Reply

Subject: input and output -Reply
From: David Hailey <FAHAILEY -at- WPO -dot- HASS -dot- USU -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 1996 11:03:01 -0600

Input, output, equipment, sugar, cattle, software, hardware,
data, and similar nouns that refer to collections often have
ambiguous number. Typically, the public decides the number
of the accompanying verb (is or are) based on sound: but
usually it is singular--"the cattle and people are. . . but
the equipment is. . ., the sugar is. . ., the software is. .
., the hardware is. . ., and by popular demand (much to the
annoyance to the anal) the data is. . . . the input is...
and the output is. Once the number is decided by the
public, it has no plural or in the fewer cases where it is
seen as plural, it has no singular (plural of cow is cows,
not cattle)). The only exception I know of is "people,"
plural for person.

Sometimes these have special environments that require a
rethinking of the above, "Coke is filled with a variety of
unhealthy sugars," but these cases are rare. Again these
tend to be driven by ear. Nobody would ever say a "variety
of equipments (or datas)." Almost certainly they would find
another way of phrasing the sentence (equipment groups,
databases, data sets, etc.).

Input is plural in the sense that it refers to a bunch of
bits, but is only written as singular. More input is still
only more input.

Some of the traditionalists would argue that input is a verb
and should never have been made into a noun--I am not among
them.

But then as Descartes never said, "I think therefor I am
wrong."

Dave Hailey
fahailey -at- wpo -dot- hass -dot- usu -dot- edu

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