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October 2, 2009

How Do You Pronounce “Data”

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 10:11 am

One of the most common words I hear every day is the word data Ordinarily it would go unnoticed, but lately I’ve been noticing a lot of controversy around the word. 4 simple letters: D-a-t-a. How could there be any argument?

One of the things I’ve noticed is that depending on where people are from they pronounce the word completely different. Most people here in the Detroit area say it as “day – tuh”, as I’m sure many Americans do. Everybody I know from the UK and India though, pronounce it as “dah – tuh”.

Why do Americans pronounce it with a long A sound while much of the world doesn’t? More importantly, which pronunciation is correct?

Like most words, data is derived from Latin. Data is the plural of datum. In Latin, datum is pronounced “dah-tum” – without the long A sound. That would seem to suggest that the “day-tuh” pronunciation is wrong, right?

What version do you use? Please vote in the poll below (poll results in comments):

Want to avoid all the confusion, sound like an idiot, but still be technically correct? Try using the word datums instead of data. It’s also a valid plural form of datum

Figured out the pronunciation? – great, let’s try conjugation

Now that you’ve figured out how to say the word, how do you use it in a sentence? Do you say the data are or the data is.

Using is/are can be confusing in itself as well. The AP style guide offers this explanation:

…use data as singular if we refer to a body of data, such as an entire report, and use data as plural if we refer to more than one data point. So: The data is clear. But some data are not clear.

Still confused? Me too. I wish there was some more data on the usage of the word data.

1 Comment

  1. Poll Results:

    Comment by Ryan — October 2, 2009 @ 10:14 am

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