The case for plural "data"

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  1. Jan Freeman said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

    Point taken, but look on the bright side: This version is true whichever reading you choose.

  2. David L said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

    Is this a crash blossom? I read it at first as meaning that fabricating data, as opposed to data about manufacturing, invigorates Wall Street.

  3. David M said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

    I bet the pun was intended.

  4. David L said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

    Oops. Please ignore previous comment. Not for the first time I typed something before establishing that I had understood what the point of the post was. This comes of looking to LLog for a bit of relief from some otherwise deeply boring work.

    Carry on.

  5. Oskar said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

    I tip my hat to that Times headline writer, a person who clearly knows what they are doing.

  6. Ellen K. said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

    What I find interesting about this is that the ambiguity doesn't come from any headlinese.

    Although, the use of the present tense instead of the past tense does I think make it more likely to be misunderstood. Still, the ambiguity is still there when put into the past tense we'd used in ordinary English, "Manufacturing data helped invigorate Wall Street".

  7. Steve said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

    As delightful as this crash blossom is (and it really is a lovely specimen), I'm not sure that the use of data as a mass noun was an accessory to the crime.

    Presumably, the plural-data version would be "Manufacturing data help invigorate Wall Street", which I would still probably initially parse as "the fabrication of misleadingly positive data helped invigorate Wall Street." The only difference would be that it would seem to have a doozy of a typo within it, but not enough of one to prompt the correct reading. Or I might read it as a plea that somebody lend Wall Street aid by manufacturing some false, but buoyant, economic data. In fact, strangely, I think the mass noun version is actually less confusing, in that, while it leads me astray, it also leads me back to the right interpretation eventually, while the plural data version looks like it has to have an error of some kind within it, which would likely make it even harder to decipher.

    ISTM that "Manufacturing Data" is a crash blossom all by its own bad self, and it would take a serious re-write to make it not crash-able.

  8. Aaron Toivo said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

    I agree that if it had been written "Manufacturing data help …" I would probably still first read it as data-fabrication with a glaring typo. A plural verb may even obstruct the intended meaning, because it steps out of the normal pattern for economics news, in which "jobs data" and the like are not only mass nouns, but quite frequently used ones.

  9. Ross Presser said,

    January 4, 2013 @ 12:16 am

    "Manufacturer data" would be the quick way to neuter this blossom.

  10. Steve said,

    January 4, 2013 @ 2:05 am

    @Ross Presser: "manufacturer data" would eliminate one type of crash blossom, but it would key up another ambiguity: it could be taken to mean data about a specific manufacturer, rather than data about the manufacturing industry as a whole, which is what I think "manufacturing data" was intended to refer to.

  11. Eugene said,

    January 4, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

    Didn't anybody else read it as referring to Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation? After all, he's a fully functioning android. Manufacturing him would, indeed, invigorate Wall Street.

  12. Jimbino said,

    January 4, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

    The Amerikan media is thoroughly biased, whereas the medias of other countries are more fair. The data our medias rely on is also bogus, whereas the datas used by other countries' medias are more reliable, especially when referring to rock stratas.

  13. CBK said,

    January 4, 2013 @ 11:34 pm

    For a rewrite: How about "Increases reported for manufacturing invigorate Wall Street"?

    The NYT article is about the results of analyses of data (i.e., changes in statistics and indexes), not data alone. So, it seems to me that there's no need for "data" to be in the title.

    I don't think that the idea that "data" is often used as a synonym for "statistics" or "index" has been mentioned recently on this blog (if it's been mentioned at all).

  14. stringph said,

    February 1, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

    And that's without considering that 'helps' could also be a noun (in American English, at least).

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