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Tea room discussion[edit]

Note: the below discussion was moved from the Wiktionary:Tea room.

When the plural form of a word is overwhelmingly more common (and indeed often used instead of) its singular, do we still just define metadata as "Plural of metadatum"? same goes with normal data/datum too I suppose. Conrad.Irwin 17:47, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

I'd say that metadata was used as an uncountable collective noun primarily. I'm not certain I've ever heard metadatum used, although it does get bgc hits. Thryduulf 13:45, 12 September 2008 (UTC)
Metadatum is extremely rare—I count about 15 English-language G-books hits, earliest published 1993.
It appears that Metadata was first registered as a product name in 1974, and metadata hadn't been used before at least 1969.[1] I presume that data was already used as a singular noun by this time, but I'd like to see a citation supporting that. NOAD defines it as “a set of data...”, neatly accounting for its singular number.
I believe metadatum could be considered a singular back-formation based on the presumption that metadata is plural and following the example of datum, although I don't know what kind of evidence we have without citing a lexicographer's opinion. Perhaps this presumption could be considered a hyper-correction, or pedantic view that data is always plural. Michael Z. 2008-09-13 17:38 z
It’s true that metadatum is rare; it’s a little over four-and-a-half thousand times rarer than metadata. Use of data in the singular seems to have been fairly uncommon before the late-1980s, but such usage did exist quite a bit before then, as evidenced by this 1908 publication; I can’t say whether this usage would have been considered standard back then (I’m guessing not). As for evidence of the etymology of metadatum, we have the strength of your theory, which seems pretty likely; we often have to make assertions that cannot be referenced, by virtue of the fact that we can and do add many words that professional paid lexicographers don’t bother with or that they take far longer to treat. Lastly, I don’t think that the back-formation could be considered pædantic or a hypercorrection — data may be a lot more common as a mass noun than as a plural, but that doesn’t make the plural use (or the use of its singular, datum) at all a hypercorrection.  (u):Raifʻhār (t):Doremítzwr﴿ 23:15, 15 September 2008 (UTC)