Social Media – Singular or Plural?

from The Economist, 1-10-18

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This is certainly not wrong; media is of course technically a plural noun (like data), however much it is considered a singular or, perhaps better, a collective noun. But I don’t remember seeing social media used as a plural; the unit-like nature of the term, rather than the noun itself, would seem to further identify it as a singular (collective) noun, rather than a (literal) plural noun, but The Economist, apparently, uses it as a plural. Cool.


Greek / Latin Plurals

  • begin at the 50 sec mark to skip the only indirectly related content
  • correct about the Greek and no -i, of course, and I suppose correct about the -es plural in English, though the true Greek plural would be octopodes
  • for a (humorous) attempt to introduce the 4th declension Latin plural into English (including for non-4th declension nouns like octopus), click here
  • thanks, CH, for sending it along (twice)

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Gender of Latin Plurals – Huff Post Article

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.52.18 PMfrom this Huffington Post Article [red underline mine; blue text its]

I find it particularly entertaining when articles that pertain to gender issues, especially with an inclusivity angle, get gender wrong.

There are two difficulties with the Latin gender endings: form / correspondence and pronunciation. Form is the easier, so we’ll begin there.

Latin singular masculine is -us; Latin plural masculine is -i. If a man has graduated from a university (or other school / institution), he is an alumnus. If a group of men has graduated, they are alumni. If a group of men and women (yes, technically, even one man and many more women) have graduated, they are alumni.

Latin singular feminine is -a; Latin plural feminine is -ae. If a woman has graduated from a university (or other school / institution), she is an alumna. If a group of women has graduated, they are alumnae.

Unfortunately for the above writer, the idea of women’s college alumni is questionable at best and paradoxical at worst. Yes, yes, I know that many women’s colleges admit men to their graduate programs and that, especially in an article about transgender applicants, the definitions of gender as reflected in grammar can get murky, but it seems pretty clear from the context that this sentence is referring to what should be called alumnae. And see the paragraph below for an even more amusing footnote to the miscue, as the author talks about the importance of pronouning people correctly:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 6.27.54 PMAnd now for the pronunciation wrinkle. In English today, the -i in alumni is pronounced ‘eye’, while the -ae in alumnae is generally pronounced ‘ay’ (as in ‘say’), though the latter is infrequently used and so even less frequently pronounced. In Classical Latin, however, the -i in alumni is pronounced -ee (as in ‘see’) and the -ae in alumnae is pronounced ‘eye’. Rarely would a situation arise that different pronunciations would obfuscate meaning, but, if you’re talking to a Latin teacher (like me), make sure you establish how you’re going to pronounce things before proceeding….

Bacteria v. Bacterium – Stuff You Should Know Extinction Podcast

The Latin (and Greek) plurals will get you every time: bacteria, data, criteria, phenomena. All of them are plural and commonly used, but, if they are plural, it means that they have a singular, and it’s the singular that is commonly ignored. So in the above example, a single bacteria can’t exist; a single bacterium can (and does. Similarly, datum (though very uncommon; data has become a common enough word that it functions as both singular and plural), criterion, phenomenon. The latter two are the Greek singulars (-on), while the former two are Latin singulars (-um).