data (was "nucular and Latino")

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Wed Nov 14 17:07:20 UTC 2001

In a message dated 11/14/01 8:26:34 AM Eastern Standard Time, mnewman at QC.EDU

> Whereas in Spanish they say "dato" (sg) and datos (pl.),
>  we have this unintuitive prescriptive rule declaring "data" a plural.

According to M-W 10th Collegiate, "Data...occurs in two constructions: as a
plural noun (like earnings), taking a plural verb and plural modifies (as
these, many, a few) but not cardinal numbers...and as an abstract mass noun
(like information), taking a singluar verb and singular modifiers...Both
constructions are standard.  THe plural construction is more common in print,
evidently because the house style of several publishers mandates it."

"Data" is a Latin plural; the Latin neuter singular is "datum".  "Datum"  is
much less common in English than "data" but does occur, particularly in
certain specialized usages (e.g. the manufacturer of an airplane  specifies
the "datum" which is the point from which all distances are measured for
weight and balance calculations.)   Hence in English "datum" and "data" have
largely broken loose from each other, although not to the extent that "opus"
and its plural "opera" have.

          - Jim Landau

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