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  • Writer's pictureWILLIAM A SLOAN

Blog 390. You Say Data, I Say Dayta

Let's call the whole thing off.

The word DATA and the use of it in every aspect of life is one of my least favorite things, like, ever. And considering it’s something used to analyze and clarify, don’t you think it’s funny how many people mispronounce it and don’t know it? Irony is a wonderful thing.

It’s pronounced Day-ta, with a long A. And the only reason I’m certain of it is because I looked it up in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I know Merriam-Webster is a hyphenate of two family names but I always think of Merriam Webster as a nice 50-ish librarian with grey hair, wearing a navy blue cardigan over a white blouse, a tweed skirt and sensible shoes...and lavender-rimmed glasses on a chain. And that Merriam, my imaginary Merriam, knows her stuff, so we don’t question Merriam Webster.

I also learned from Merriam that DATA is actually the plural of DATUM which means something given or admitted especially as a basis for reasoning or inference. It’s like saying, “That’s a good point, Eunice.” But we don’t say that. Instead we say, or some people say, “Interesting piece of data, Jerome.” thereby elevating it to the level of I’d-better-pay-attention-to-this-because-this-is-important-in-a-scientific-mathematical-way status. It’s annoying.

The reason for my rant, or should I say the datum that kicked this off is that I’ve had a week filled with data, often supported by Venn diagrams and bar charts which only succeed in clouding what was originally a very basic thought. I’m at sea in an ocean of data looking for a life raft of common sense or nonsense – at this point I’ll take either one.

You can use all the quantitative data you can get, but you still have to distrust it and use your own intelligence and judgment.

– Alvin Toffler

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