Thursday, January 07, 2016

We've Been Grammar Grumped

A reader of my and Eli Pollak's media comment columns in the Jerusalem Post from Kiryat Biaalik wrote:

While I found Yisrael Medad's and Eli Pollak's article interesting, ("2015 ends and 2016 begins," December 31) I was distracted and surprised by 2 errors in the usage of the words, " data and media." Both words are plural and must be used with plural articles and verbs, i.e. These data are, The media act, etc. 

Considering Medad and Pollak write exclusively about media matters, one would assume they are able to use Latin-based words, like media, correctly.

Actually, no.  The writer is incorrect.

The simple, short answer is that both forms are acceptable.

There are count nouns and mass nouns and they permit the interchange of seemingly original Latin forms.

Consider this:

The noun "data", the plural of "datum", can be used as singular or plural in meaning: this data; these data; there is no data. The noun "agenda", originally the plural of "agendum", is generally used as a singular noun: today's agenda; a lengthy agenda.

and this:

Data and media can take either a singular or plural verb in standard English, but be consistent within a piece of writing, always check the style policy of your organization, and make yourself familiar with the grammatical debate that exists around them. Following these simple tips will ensure that you won’t come to the attention of the grammar police!

and this:

There are also a few Latin plurals like data, which some insist should always be plural. But hardly anyone ever talks about one datum, and though people write things like There are few data, they never tell you how many data they have (We have collected 972 data). Some of these Latin plurals have lost their singulars, like trivia, agenda, and stamina, while others are slowly moving in that direction, like media.

Oh, and grump as a verb?  See here:

Intransitive verb
:  sulk
:  grumble, complain
transitive verb
:  to utter in a grumpy manner


No comments: