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August 8, 1966

Datum Insipientum

Author Affiliations

Bloomington, Hawaii

JAMA. 1966;197(6):516. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110060190043

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To the Editor:—  Things might have been better in Roman days, when the title of this epistola would have been close to nonsense, because datum was nothing but a past participle. Much later this great and good word found its way into the English language, and the erudition which makes its plural data is one of those perennial editorial delights.Some authors pluralize, and some not. This is meat and drink to editors, as they leap upon "data is." Whenever "data" is used as a plural, some editor should receive a medal for service "over and above the call of duty." The loftier brand, however, scorns this lowly sport, and prefers to leave the error in place (195:833, 1966).There is another puzzling feature of this matter. Never, in a scientific publication, is a small datum reported. They are always "data."I posed this problem to my 3-year-old niece