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Wordy Weekly VI

Word Up, everyone!

i) DATA: we start with Latin again. I was recently asked by a friend and former colleague whether one should say ‘the data is’ or the ‘the data are’. She had argued for the latter, a student for the former. I replied that while ‘is’ would be acceptable, her argument for ‘are’ was certainly more correct. ‘data’ is a plural noun. It comes from the Latin verb ‘do, dare, dedi, datus’.Data comes from the fourth part of the verb, meaning ‘the thing which was given’, it is a past participle. Data is the plural of the neuter (one of Latin’s three noun genders). So, data means the ‘things that have been given’, hence its modern meaning ‘details, particularly facts and statistics gathered for study and analysis’. ‘The data are’ is, therefore, quite correct!

ii) DIAPHRAGM: the word comes from the Greek verb ‘diafrassein', which means ‘to fence in, hem in’. The related noun fragma means ‘fence’ or ‘screen’. The preposition dia means ‘through’ or ‘throughout/right across’. So, the diaphragm is the ‘muscle that goes across and hems in’, a barrier’.

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