6 thoughts on “Special Bulletin. Obama’s Speech on the NSA: The Mountain Brings Forth a Mouse.

  • In the technical/scientific community “data” is definitely a plural noun and I applaud Mr. Phillips’ (hmm Phillips’?; Phillip’s?; Phillips?) dean for insisting on it. I decry the wide-spread practice of declaring a usage acceptable simply because it is so wide spread, such as the singular use of “data.”

    • Yikes. RINOcracy.com is amused that, in its short history, no point has generated more comment than the question of singular or plural usage of media and data. As suggested in my initial reply, both are generally considered acceptable. (This is the view of both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, which agree on little else.) Our own view is that it’s a matter of which seems more appropriate in context. That seems also to be the point of the analysis which appeared in the Times:

      Traditionalists among our readers bemoan our permissiveness in allowing “data” to be used as plural or singular, rather than insisting on the plural. (Actually, it’s clearer to distinguish between its use as a “count” noun, requiring a plural verb, and as a “mass” noun, with a singular verb.)

      It is not surprising that the experiences of Messrs. Phillips and Pew in the context of technical courses reflected the use of data as a “count” noun. The enforcement regime of Phillips’s professor, however, seems a bit extreme. (Yes, it’s “Phillips’s.” See Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, Rule 1, although others differ on this as well).

      Looking back at the blog that started all this, we find that the blog does not appear to use the word data but does refer to metadata. The blog uses it in the plural (“the panel proposed that metadata be stored” but quotes President Obama, who used it in the plural (“this metadata”). RINOcracy.com has criticized the President on various grounds, but this will not be one of them.

      The blog used media in the singular (“the media has chosen”). The point being made was that the media had acted together, as a herd (a “mass noun” in the Times’s terminology).

      RINOcracy.com does not plan to explore this issue further, but if anyone would like to expand on the subject and submit a guest blog, it will be given every consideration.

  • I am merely glad that this speech was not worse than it might have been. However, I have come to believe that the Big Neighborhood Organizer has at least come to understand the fundamental issues involved in this difficult problem although not in most others in which he is or has been involved since he suckered enough dreamers into believing he was/is worthy of being promoted to President of the USA.

    As for the more important question as to whether media and data are singular or plural nouns I persist in thinking of them as plural but recognize that I am in the effete minority. I am still cringing from the rebuke I received from Judge Hutcheson when I first met him in 1958 (after I had written a note to Judge Tuttle and him in which I used the word “memoranda”): To the best of my hazy recollection, he greeted me by saying something like, “So this is our new helper who refers to memorandums as ‘memoranda’? I suppose they taught you at Cornell to refer to condoms as ‘conda’ ?!”

  • We substantially concur with the balance you believe appropriate between national security and privacy. Regarding your complaint that the president enunciated no plans as to how “Snowden II and III” could be prevented, I think it wise he didn’t since it would be virtually impossible to guarantee no further leaks and we need no further pronouncements of the ilk of the “red line” crossing if Syria used chemicals weapons.

    (Have the words ‘data’ and ‘media’ now become singular? If so, do we now add an ‘s’ to make them plural?)

    • Details of what we might do to to prevent Snowden II and Snowden III should, of course, be kept secret. As initially discussed in Blog No. 24, Part II, the advisory panel made a number of recommendations,including some that are rather obvious (such as treating classified information on a need to know basis and reducing the use of outside contractors to vet personnel in sensitive positions.) In my view, the President should endorse such recommendations publicly and see that they are implemented. Such steps would not “guarantee” anything, but they would make disasters less likely.

      I believe that data and media are collective nouns as to which either the singular or plural verb form may be used although the singular is more common.

      • The dean of the college I attended deducted points for the use of a singular verb with “data.” Since he multiplied the content score by the writing score to determine the final grade, we soon learned that “data are….” not “data is….”

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