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

Robert Elz kre at munnari.OZ.AU
Fri Aug 15 01:31:06 UTC 2014

    Date:        Thu, 14 Aug 2014 07:40:57 +0100
    From:        Lester Caine <lester at lsces.co.uk>
    Message-ID:  <53EC59F9.2080203 at lsces.co.uk>

  | In my book they are still timezones :)

I don't gree with the "still", But I certainly agree with the
conclusion - that is, timezone (as a single word) is now perfectly
OK (as is filesystem).

English has a long tradition of making combined words out of adjective/noun
pairs when the object described is a significant, and often used, such that
the pair appear together very frequently.   Consider "afternoon" as an obvious
example - a word now undisputably I think - has been for a very long time)
yet it would once have been more correctly "after noon", which is exactly what 
it describes.   There are lots more examples (several more afterxxx words,
like afterthought, also backbone, bathroom, breakfast...) from long ago, but
also others that have only formed more recently (eg: striptease, which a couple
of hundred years ago didn't exist, and then when the "art" form appeared,
was a "strip tease", but now has formed into a single word, and the separated
form is rarely, if ever seen).   Similarly backfire, broadsheet, cheerleader,
and more ... examples are not hard to find (just don't count cases where a 
prefix or suffix happens also to be a word "bothersome politicians" and
"bother some politicians" don't mean the same thing at all ... the "some"
suffix has nothing to do with the word "some"... same for membership, etc).

Also, there is a long tradition of new words forming in technical communities
(especially medicine of course) and then later being exported to the community
as a whole - so even if timezone (or filesystem) are not yet in widespread
enough use outside the computing/timekeeping ommunities, there's no reason
we can't keep using them, until they are.


ps: to fit this message to the subject, I gave up demanding that data be
treated as plural decades ago - treating it as an uncountable seems fine
to me (and retire datum to the relics of words that have died) which means
that "data" would always have a singular verb, regardless of how much data is
being discussed.  Alternatively it could turn into one of those words like
sheep/fish which are their own plural (and are nothing like the uncountables).
Which happens will depend upon how usage develops over the coming decades
and longer - for now, just write whatever seems natural.  And avoid fixing
or criticising, what seems natural to others.

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