Re: input and output -Reply

Subject: Re: input and output -Reply
From: Shmuel Ben-Artzi <sba -at- NETMEDIA -dot- NET -dot- IL>
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 1996 19:05:46 +0200


True, "data" is a neuter plural, but what is the traditionally accepted
usage in its English metamorphosis? As I have learned from the learned Mr.
Webster, "data" is "now often used with a singular verb". "Now" means to my
ear that this is a modern phenomenon (at least in English usage) and "often"
that it is not yet universally accepted.

But despite that, I never raised the issue of the verb forms used with
"data" at all (check my original posting below). I was merely pointing out
its nearly universal use as both a singular *and* a plural noun form,
contrary to the dictates of ancient Latin (and, I would suppose, ancient
Greek as well). The same learned Mr. Webster has defined "data" as a plural
noun (though with the above caveat) and "datum" as a singular noun (without
the use of any caveat whatsoever).

Thus, it is only modern, commonly accepted usage which has caused poor,
solitary "datum" to fade almost into oblivion. Truth be told, though, in
nearly thirty years of working with computers, I can't remember more than
one or two occasions which warranted my use of "datum". Oh, well, perhaps
the culturally determinant steamroller of the masses has something going for
it after all.

Shmuel Ben-Artzi
sba -at- netmedia -dot- net -dot- il

>I admire anybody who can use the word "eschew" in a sentence that doesn't
>mention a sneeze. However, my admiration does not keep me from bringing up a
>datum that our colleague, the learned Mr. Ben-Artzi, has apparently overlooked.
>"Data" is neuter plural. In Latin (and Greek, but who asked?), neuter plural
>nouns take a singular verb. So one could argue that people use a singular noun
>with "data" because they are only following the traditional Latin (and Greek --
>don't forget Greek!) construction.

Once we knew without even bothering to question (because the ancient Romans
told us so) that "data" was most certainly a plural. We knew because it had
a more solitary, singular form, "datum" (lit. a single piece of
information). But modern society, as it is wont to do, claimed the
gregarious "data" as its own while eschewing its lonlier sister, "datum".
And now even the most popular dictionaries have taken the easy way out,
caving in to the wave of public demand to "Simplify, simplify."

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