I was an electronic engineer for most of my working life.  During all of that time I used the word “data” lots of times, every day.

It was never a plural word as it seems to be used now. Neither was it a singular word.  It was used in a similar way to “water” or “hay” or “air”.  As in:-

  • The water comes along this pipe – the data comes along these wires.
    NOT the water come or the data come.
  • The hay is stored in the barn – the data is stored on the hard drive.
    NOT the hay are stored or the data are stored
  • The air is compressed – the data is manipulated
    NOT the air are compressed or the data are manipulated.

It was an mass or uncountable noun.

We did not use the word datum to mean a piece of data.  The word datum was usually a point on a graph. A piece of data in electronics is a “bit” or a “byte”.  In non technical English it could be a word or a sentence or a number or something very vague like a thought or a belief.

When did it all change? And when was it decided that we all must use Latin plurals and start referring to football stadia.  What next?  Will a box of of magnum classic ice creams become magna?  Will we see croci (crocuses) growing in the garden.

When will we stop being bloody pretentious??