Thursday, June 25, 2020

"Media" is a plural noun

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was a Canadian academic and philosopher.  A professor of English at the University of Toronto, McLuhan  became internationally renowned for his studies on the effects of the mass media on human thought and behaviour.  He didn't live long enough to investigate the effects of the internet, but it would be illuminating to have his research on that subject.  Wouldn't it be fascinating to know McLuhan's views on the internet's impact on society?


McLuhan coined two memorable phrases during his lifetime; they are "global village" and "the medium is the message."  He didn't say "the media is the message."  That's because "medium" is singular and "media" is plural.  However, people seem to prefer using "media" as a singular noun.  I think that the term "the media is" comes easier to the tongue than "the media are," probably because "media" doesn't end in an "s".  It doesn't sound plural. 

I frequently hear "the media is" and I  often read "the media is."  Here's the problem.  If "media" is used as a singular noun, than what about "medium."  Can there be two singular forms for the same word?  That is the issue with words derived from Latin. 

Singular Latin words end in "um," and are pluralized with an "a." These include words such as "datum" and" stadium."  The singular of "data" is "datum."  However, people rarely say "datum."  The plural of  "stadium" is actually "stadia," but people prefer to say "stadiums."  It's obvious that we want our plural nouns to end in "s."  Although we can tack an "s" on to "stadium," the same can't be done to "medium."  "The mediums are" just doesn't sound right.  Yet, use of the phrase "the media are." is becoming increasing less popular with English speakers.

- Joanne