[tz] [PATCH] The word "data" is plural.

John Haxby john.haxby at oracle.com
Wed Aug 13 09:22:04 UTC 2014

On 13/08/14 02:03, Paul Eggert wrote:
>    Think of this as "TZ Classic" - the software has been set up not to break if
> -  universal time shows up in its input, and the data has been left as is so as
> +  universal time shows up in its input, and the data have been left as is so as
>    not to break existing implementations.

English is a fluid language and while datum is the singular and data is
the plural the use of datum has largely fallen out of favour (and favor)
and "data" as both singular and plural (like "sheep" or "fish") is now
the norm.  In many cases "the data are" is as natural sounding as "the
data is", in some cases one or the other sounds stilted.  I often hear
or read "a single data point" rather than "a datum" and it's the latter
that sounds weird, not the former.

Recently I was listening to a discussion with someone academically
well-qualified[1] talking about this subject.  People a "a bacteria"
instead of "a bacterium".  You hear "stadiums" and "referendums" instead
of "stadia" and "referenda".  That doesn't make someone using one
instead of the other right or wrong, it's just the state of the language

The discussion ended with where this plural form came from: Latin words
that end "um" for the singular end "a" for the plural.  Bacterium,
however, is Greek.  And plural.

I'd chose "data is" vs "data are" depending on which reads more
naturally rather than sticking to the (almost archaic) view that it can
only be used as a plural.


[1] I forget whether the lady in question was a Professor at one of the
major UK universities or someone from the Oxford English Dictionary.
Either was she was someone you'd expect to argue for "proper" use of
plurals but she in fact advocated relaxing and going with the flow.
English, she said, is defined by use, unlike French which is defined by
mandate.  Incidentally, the spell checker that this MUA is using is
happy with data, datum and datums as well as referenda, referendum and

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