Quantum Mechanics in a Grammar Post?

rogersgeorge on December 22nd, 2017

Well, sort of. Really the post is about Latin plurals.

I’m learning that people prefer these posts to be short and (heh) sweet. Grammar does tend to get complicated at times, so I’ll try not to put so much, um, content into my posts.

Here’s a really short one about quantum mechanics; that should be doable, right?

Here’s the quote, from an article in This Day in History:

Planck’s theory held that radiant energy is made up of particle-like components, known as “quantum.”

Alas, the writer got his Latin plural wrong. The sentence should end with “quanta.” “Quanta” is like “data” and “criteria.” Those are plurals, and their singulars are “quantum,” “datum,” and “criterion.”

How’s that for short—only quantum mechanics and Latin plurals.

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More small mistakes

rogersgeorge on January 31st, 2012

As if there were such a thing as a small mistake. It depends on your perspective, of course. I have a rule in cooking: if you have basically good ingredients, and don’t destroy them, you’ll come up with something that’s at least acceptable. If your cake falls, serve it under or over ice cream. It’ll still be pretty good. On the other hand, a single typo in your résumé could keep you from getting that interview.

Perhaps I can define a small mistake as one that’s easy to fix. Small mistakes are not the hard part of writing.

Today, class, we look at some words whose plurals are easy to get wrong.

Data—This word is plural. The singular is datum. You generally see this used correctly in scientific writing, where they perform a lot of statistical analysis on piles (scientific term) of data, and you can see sentences like “The data are fairly convincing; only one datum is an outlier.”

The plural of "date" is "dates" and they have nothing to do with data

Media—This word is a plural. When we say “mass media,” we refer to all the TV and radio stations, and all the newspapers and magazines. The singular is medium, and sometimes you see it when someone refers to one of the media.

The medium of radio is the only one you can use while you do something else.

This word has become contaminated by the use of “medium” to refer to someone who holds séances, and the plural of this word is “mediums.” I predict that “media” will eventually become a singular and its plural will become “medias.” But not yet, so get it right.

Criteria—Our third plural. The singular is criterion. I remember a fancy restaurant in St. Paul named The Criterion. They claimed to be the standard by which other restaurants should judge themselves. I ate there once. They cut the lettuce for the salad instead of tore it. Didn’t meet my criterion for how to prepare a salad.  I recently read a pretty good article about mistakes you can make in a job interview. The article got “criteria” wrong, and it’s this sentence in the article that gave me the idea for this post.

When I am hiring though, and if you happen to apply, the above is the criteria I will use to decide.

Since the writer was referring to a list of five items, she should have written “…the above are the criteria…”

These mistakes are commonly made by well-educated professionals. The plurals are slightly more high-falootin’ than the singulars, so I could have classified this lesson under my oft-used heading, “the sin of pretentiousness.”