[Taxacom] Family names, usage.
releech at telusplanet.net
Wed Feb 20 19:31:30 CST 2008
I usta hafta teach English grammar. Mike is right.
Even the manuals for Microsoft have, "This data is...".
I will quit trying to promote This datum is, and these
data are, when I see, "These datas are...".
I suggest you consult The Careful Write: a Modern
Guide to English Usage, by Theodore M. Bernstein.
See "Data" on pages 130 and 131.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael A. Ivie" <mivie at montana.edu>
To: "Richard Zander" <Richard.Zander at mobot.org>
Cc: <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2008 1:52 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Family names, usage.
> From Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words:
> *data*. Perhaps no other word better illustrates the extent to which
> questions of usage are often largely a matter of fashion. In Latin,
> data is of course a plural, and until fairly recent times virtually all
> authorities insisted, often quite strenuously, that it be treated as
> such in English. Thus "The data was fed into a computer program shown
> as SLOSH" /(New Yorker) /should be "The data were fed .. ."
> The problem is that etymology doesn't always count for much
> in English. If it did, we would have to write, "My stamina aren't what
> they used to be" or ''I've just paid two insurance premia." For
> centuries we have been adapting Latin words to fit the needs and
> patterns of English. /Museums, agendas,/ /stadiums, premiums, /and many
> others are freely, and usually unexceptionably, inflected on the English
> model, not the Latin one.
> Indeed, many users of English show an increasing tendency to
> treat all Latin plurals as singulars, even those that have traditionally
> been treated as plural, most notably /criteria,/ /media, phenomena,
> strata, /and /data. /With the first four of these the impulse is
> probably better resisted, partly as a concession to convention, but also
> because a clear and useful distinction can be made between the singular
> and plural forms. In stratified rock, for instance, each stratum is
> clearly delineated. In any list of criteria, each criterion is
> distinguishable from every other. /Media /suggests-or ought to
> suggest-one medium and another medium and another. In each case the
> elements that make up the whole are invariably distinct and separable.
> But with /data /such distinctions are much less evident.
> This may be because, as Professor Randolph Quirk has suggested, we have
> a natural inclination to regard /data /as an aggregate-that is, as a
> word in which we perceive the whole more immediately than the parts.
> Just as we see a bowlful of sugar as a distinct entity rather than as a
> collection of granules (which is why we don't say, "Sugar are sweet"),
> we tend to see /data /as a complete whole rather than one datum and
> another datum and another. In this regard it is similar to /news /(which
> some nineteenth-century users actually treated as a plural) and
> The shift /is /clearly in the direction of treating /data
> /as a singular, as /The New Yorker /and several other publications have
> decided to do. Personally, and no doubt perversely, I find that I have
> grown more attached to /data /as a plural with the passage of time. I
> think there is a certain elegance and precision in "More data are needed
> to provide a fuller picture of the DNA markers" /(Nature) /than "The
> data by itself is vacuous" /(New York Times). /But that /is /no more
> than my opinion.
> Whichever side you come down on, it is worth observing that
> the sense of /data /is generally best confined to the idea of raw,
> uncollated bits of information, the sort of stuff churned out by
> computers, and not extended to provide a simple synonym for /facts /or
> /reports /or /information, /as it was in this /New/ /York Times
> /headline: ''Austria magazine reports new data on Waldheim and Nazis."
> The "data" on inspection proved to be evidence and allegations-words
> that would have more comfortably fit the context, /if /not the
> NOTE NEW ADDRESS (As of 01/01/2007 DO NOT USE OLD P.O. BOX ADDRESS):
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