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"Media" is plural

Discussion in 'Legal' started by SkunkApe, Jul 22, 2003.

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  1. SkunkApe

    SkunkApe Member

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    The word "media" is the plural of "medium".

    A grammatically correct sentence would be "The media lie.".

    A grammatically incorrect sentence would be "The media lies."

    A grammatically correct sentence would be "I think the media are helping Bush."

    A grammatically incorrect sentence would be "I think the media is helping Bush."



    I had to get that off of my chest. Continue as usual.


    By the way. "data" is the plural of "datum". The same rules apply.
     
  2. Blackhawk

    Blackhawk Member In Memoriam

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    Yeah, I've noticed that THRers are obsessed about being grammatically correct.... :rolleyes:
     
  3. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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    I now wish to introduce you to the concept of collective singulars, a growing, and recognized, grammar usage by which a "body" of something, such as a body a facts (data) is presented in the singular.

    The data show

    or

    The data shows

    Either is considered to be correct usage these days.

    Consistency of usage is the key.

    If you use "The media are..." in one place in a document, you should be consistent.

    Data/datum

    Media/medium

    Alumni/Alumnae

    ad infinitum

    All were adopted from Latin, and shoehorned into our set of English grammar rules.

    As adopted originally, the Latin roots were adopted with them to show the differences in the words.

    That's wonderful.

    And quaint.

    And antiquated.

    And Latin is a dead language.

    While English is a living one.
     
  4. SkunkApe

    SkunkApe Member

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    The problem with English as a "living language" is that if enough people say or write something incorrectly, it eventually becomes acceptable. That's akin to saying that if enough people insist that two plus two equals five, then it does.

    English is not a democracy.

    I hope I die before "I ain't go no time fo dem media" becomes grammatically correct.
     
  5. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    But, SkunkApe, consider: I grew up in a world where "Interface" was solely a noun. "Decimate" meant to kill one in ten, as the Romans did to the Sabines.

    "It's" is NOT a possessive. :fire:

    And so it goes...

    :), Art
     
  6. Bruce in West Oz

    Bruce in West Oz Member

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    I know American English is different from (not "to" or "than") Australian English, but I'll put my editor's hat on here ...

    No-one thinks twice about using "agenda" as a singular ("What's on the agenda for today?") or "agendas" for the plural -- so why do we buck about "media" and "data"?

    Professionally, I insist on using "media" as a plural ("The media are ...), connoting the fact that there is more than one form: radio, TV, press etc. I think I'm fighting a rearguard action, though.

    I still use "data" as a plural, but we accept it as a singular in computer usage: "Once the data has been entered, it is ..."). I don't like it, but it's accepted. We can thank the computer geeks for this one.

    Similarly, "dice" rather than "die" is being accepted as the singular. (Not by me, I might add … not yet, anyway.) Makes a mockery of the phrase alea jacta est -- the die is cast.

    However, the language is changing. The prime example is the "morphing" of nouns to verbs. (I still shudder at "impacts on" … and even more so at a phrase on a bathroom air freshener here in the office that it "fragrances the room" :what: . Those of us who enjoy the language need to take care to avoid editorial paranoia, or the "wounded bull" syndrome (heads lowered, standing in a circle facing outwards). The language is not ours to guard and protect. For those of you over, say, 40 -- forget it! It's the young people who will drive the language -- we've had our time.

    I predict an early demise of the apostrophe, particularly in "it's", with the sense being conveyed purely by context.

    Absolutely. Why is that a problem?

    Sorry, but I'm afraid it is.

    Cheers

    Bruce
     
  7. Don Gwinn

    Don Gwinn Moderator Emeritus

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    It is, and it always has been. All languages are. Study the history of the language from its inception to the present before you make sweeping statements. There's a reason we differentiate between Old English, Middle English, and Modern English (and for most people, there are smaller subdivisions such as "Shakespearean" or "Elizabethan.")

    My freshman English professor at Monmouth College told us he thought the next big shift would be the widespread acceptance of "they" and "their" as singular pronouns, as in "everyone who wants to come along should have their ticket by tomorrow." It hasn't caught on with the English professors yet, but he's certainly right about common usage.

    You can hate it if you want, but the fact remains that a language is nothing but a consensus as to which sound combinations will represent which concepts. There is no objective reason at all why one sound and not another is assigned a given meaning, at least not to people 1000 years removed from the origins of the language. Therefore the majority can and does change the language at will. Whatever the consensus says the language is, that's what it is.
     
  8. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

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    Speaking strictly as a guy who's made his living as a writer and editor since 1966: English is the most democratic language I'm ever studied or am aware of; that doesn't, however, mean I'm going to speak and write like some nitwit on television.
     
  9. TexasVet

    TexasVet Member

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    Always has been, always will be. That's why we have those Greek origin words, like 'democracy', in a Germanic derived language.
     
  10. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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    "The problem with English as a "living language" is that if enough people say or write something incorrectly, it eventually becomes acceptable. That's akin to saying that if enough people insist that two plus two equals five, then it does."

    Hum....

    OK, you don't realize the world of hurt you've just opened up for yourself.

    Let's take a look for a second at the concept of "incorrect."

    Just who determines that a particular usage is correct or incorrect?

    Is there, somewhere in the ether, an all-knowing entity who handed down the rules of English grammar on tables of stone?

    (I AM THE CHIEF THY COPY EDITOR, THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER COPY EDITORS BEFORE ME...)

    Why do you suppose that we speak, and write, the language that we do now, instead of, say, the English of Bede, Chaucer, Shakespeare, or Dickens?

    Is it because a usage panel, sitting in a Star Chamber, following the dictates of the Chief Copy Editor, issued precise ammendments to the formal language laws, which were then posted throughout the realm?

    (Henceforth, be it know, that the following changes, as approved by the Chief Copy Editor, shall be followed forthwith:

    1. Access is now approved as a verb form as well as a noun.

    2. Nice no longer means wanton, dissolute, ignorant. Henceforth nice shall mean agreeable, pleasant, pleasing, well-bred...

    3. An ammended version of "The Rules of the Great Vowel Shift" will be issued in two weeks. Please note that only the Scots are to continue speaking as the Scots, all other English speakers will follow the rules as laid out...)


    The concept you have to get around is that language is a finite thing -- that once the "rules" are laid out, they are immutable. The attempt to draw a comparison to simple mathematics is a time honored one, but ultimately fruitless. A more fitting comparison would be that of English to quantum mechanics. Heisenberg laid out the basic structural rules of quantum mechanics in the 1920s. And they haven't stopped changing since.

    (Two negatives in a sentence makes the sentence affirmative, i. e., I haven't got no bananas actually means yes, I have bananas...)

    Language isn't mathematical. It's contextual, environmental, spatial, and continually flowing.

    A good example?

    Media. From the Latin Medius.

    Do you know when it entered the English language? Around 1593, or about 1,100 years after the last of the Romans left Britain, home of the English language.

    If the language hadn't evolved, media would still mean ONLY the one in the middle, it never would have made the temporal leap from that vague definition to the one most commonly used today, the press corps.

    Every day you, I, and the other members of this board, and all English speakers worldwide, for that matter, use a language that has evolved exactly as you don't want it to.

    If that were truly the case, and languages didn't evolve through common usage, media woudn't even be in the language, and we'd all be speaking a polyglottal mixture of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, French, Germanic, and Brythonic languages with no hope of ever achieving a unified, homogenous "English" language.



    "English is not a democracy."

    And, just how do you figure that?

    If it's not a democracy, then it must be dictatorship, strictly controlled in its forms and function by, why by the Chief Copy Editor!

    Language, ANY language, by its very nature is the most democratic form of expression.

    A simple example...

    Spanish.

    In Castillian Spanish, there are 6 forms used when conjugating a verb, 3 singular, 3 plural, the same as English.

    But in new world Spanish, there are only 5 commonly used. One, the vosotros form, has largely disappeared.

    Why?

    If I remember my Spanish lessons correctly, it's because the vosotros form is mainly used when addressing those of the noble class.

    With so few nobles in the new world, it was really a moot point, and a useless form. Whom are you going to address in that matter? Jose, the ditch digger? Esmeralda, the goat herder?

    That's a perfect example of the democratic nature of languages in action.
     
  11. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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    "My freshman English professor at Monmouth College told us he thought the next big shift would be the widespread acceptance of "they" and "their" as singular pronouns, as in "everyone who wants to come along should have their ticket by tomorrow."


    Your English professor (guardian of the sacred utterances?) was a wise man, Don.

    That very change is being forced on the language by another democratic movement, the removal of gender specific references.

    "He" as a collective pronoun for both male and female is under increasing pressure, and in the rush to excise "sexist" (actually gender specific) language, we're left with uncomfortable compromises and wordy work arounds.


    My vote for a change in the language that's becoming more and more common?

    The removal of "to be" in sentences.

    "The car needs to be washed" is correct as dictated by traditional rules of grammar.

    Increasingly, though, "to be" is being dropped, leaving "The car needs washed."

    Nothing is really lost with the dropping of the "to be." The meaning of the sentence is still clear.
     
  12. Destructo6

    Destructo6 Member

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    "vosotros" is the informal "you" (plural). "Sp. sub. pron. pl. you (fam)" from "Puntos de Partida: Sixth Edition" pg 593. Therefore, there's even less reason for it to have gone out of usage in Latin America, but it has. Why do Argentinians pronounce the double l as in "ellos" as a "sh" sound (esh-os)?

    I guess because things change. But, I'm with you on this, Skunk:
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2003
  13. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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    Destructo,

    Ah. Slight chimes in the back of the head regarding the vosotros form...

    I'm now wondering if it was dropped because there was no structured nobility class in the new world, and it was seen as a way for everyone to ennoble themselves?

    Hum...

    Dang, I wish I could remember more of this!
     
  14. Destructo6

    Destructo6 Member

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    Mike, either way, it shows that language evolves.
     
  15. DrPsycho

    DrPsycho Member

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    There, they're & their - and their incorrect use of, ticks me off too. ;)
     
  16. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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  17. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    Some believe that some "black English" phrasing is actually Elizabethan English that has not evolved with mainstream American English -- as in "I be going to the store" -- and if changes to the language are wrong (not a democracy), then "I am going to the store" is wrong. ;)

    Certainly, the Gullah/Geechee spoken off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia is (was?) a mix of Elizabethan English and African.

    When did can not become cannot?
     
  18. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    I've read that until the WW II era, the purest form of Elizabethan English was spoken in the back country of the southern Appalachians. There was minimal interaction with the outside world, since back in the earliest days of settlements.

    Art
     
  19. SkunkApe

    SkunkApe Member

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    Once again, I stand humbled in the presence of my fellows. I concede defeat.

    Cuchulainn, your example from Chaucer was especially convincing.

    Still, though, I can't help having the feeling that the language is changing for the worse, and will eventually devolve until its no more than a collection of grunts and barks.

    From now on when I receive a letter of application with spelling and grammatical errors, I'll consider it a sign of creativity and the evolution of language rather than an indication of the lack of education of the applicant. I'm sure society will benefit from this new policy.
     
  20. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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    "Still, though, I can't help having the feeling that the language is changing for the worse, and will eventually devolve until its no more than a collection of grunts and barks."

    Why not?

    That's where it started.

    And, quite frankly, have you talked to any teenagers lately?


    Orthography is a completely different critter. Those norms are more accepted, and certainly more standardized.

    Here's an EXCELLENT article from H. L. Mencken on the subject of American spelling... http://www.bartleby.com/185/32.html


    "I'll consider it a sign of creativity and the evolution of language rather than an indication of the lack of education of the applicant. I'm sure society will benefit from this new policy."

    You know, I'm not sure quite what to say to this.

    Perhaps... One person does not make a movement...

    If a grammatic form is showing any signs of acceptance, it will be noted in dictionaries, journals, or current style books.

    Don't be so quick to accept all variations on accepted norms as being the coming attraction. Some evolutionary tracks are justifably dead ends.
     
  21. SkunkApe

    SkunkApe Member

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    Nevermind.
     
  22. faustulus

    faustulus Member

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    Language's only job is to communicate and although it is ill suited for this task it is the only tool we have. :)

    Skunk I feel for you.
    I still can't stand it when someone says "neanderthal" with the 'th' sound instead of the hard 't' but it has become accepted to say it the other way. Language changes and it isn't good or bad it is just different, it mirrors the time.
    I have taken a fancy to saying Super 38 instead of 38 super because the former name was the one it was once known as, but it really doesn't matter too much in the end.
     
  23. BogBabe

    BogBabe Member

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    I thought "data" was the plural of "anecdote"?
     
  24. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    Well...

    There's a difference between resisting the normal evolution of a language and noticing a person's inability to use currently proper grammar and spelling.

    Their are a diferance betwene majer misstakes an getten the "media is" thing kerect. ;)

    It depends on the job you're hiring for and the degree of the mistake. I doubt that you'd care if a ditch digger -- or even a surgeon -- lacked a grasp of the "media are" thingy.
     
  25. Marko Kloos

    Marko Kloos Moderator Emeritus

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    "English is the largest of the human tongues, with several times the vocabulary of the second largest language—this alone made it inevitable that English would eventually become, as it did, the lingua franca of this planet, for it is thereby the richest and the most flexible—despite its barbaric accretions…or, I should say, because of its barbaric accretions. English swallows up anything that comes its way, makes English out of it. Nobody tried to stop this process, the way some languages are policed and have official limits…probably because there never has been, truly, such a thing as ‘the King’s English’—for ‘the King’s English’ was French. English was in truth a bastard tongue and nobody cared how it grew…and it did!—enormously. Until no one could hope to be an educated man unless he did his best to embrace this monster.

    Its very variety, subtlety, and utterly irrational, idiomatic complexity makes it possible to say things in English which simply cannot be said in any other language."

    --Dr. Mahmoud, in Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land"


    "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

    -- James D. Nicoll
     
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