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

Paul_Koning at dell.com Paul_Koning at dell.com
Wed Aug 13 15:03:51 UTC 2014

On Aug 13, 2014, at 5:22 AM, John Haxby <john.haxby at oracle.com> wrote:

> 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.

It depends on your background, and where you are.  I suspect the opinions are different in the USA, where English is slaughtered/evolved ( :-) ) rather actively, than they would be in some other parts of the world.  I’m used to seeing “data” treated as singular, but I don’t have the “weird” reaction when I see it constructed as plural.  Having had Latin in high school is probably a contributing factor.

> ...
> 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.

Greek, yes, sort of (a Latinized form of a Greek word, as you can see from its Latin ending). Plural, no.  But that’s a bit off topic for this list.  

> 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.

That seems reasonable.  I see no objection to “data are” but it’s clear that “data is” has become acceptable, and for that reason would be a sensible choice.


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