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Dayta or Datta?
January 29, 2013 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a dialect map for the pronunciation of the word "data".

I want the word "data" to be in the corpus, but Google helpfully leads me to various researchers describing their datasets.

If regional variation isn't the driver for this pronunciation, I'd love to hear about that too.
posted by janell to Writing & Language (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
My guess is that folks who actually work with data pronounce it datta.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:39 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's quite possible that Star Trek TNG is a driver behind somewhat more homogenized pronunciation; you might find different results if you look prior to that show's existence. That's just a guess though.
posted by NoraReed at 2:41 PM on January 29, 2013


others, myself included pronounce it darta
posted by mattoxic at 2:43 PM on January 29, 2013


I don't know if this small item will help but my seventh grade science project included asking people to pronounce the ten most mispronounced words in English [according to The Book of Lists (the original)] and this word was one of the ten. (I believe the book had "datta" as the correct answer).

(Some others I recall from the list: Caribbean, gondola, gratis.)
posted by Glinn at 2:48 PM on January 29, 2013


Have you checked this dialect map?
posted by Dansaman at 2:48 PM on January 29, 2013


The reason I ask is that I'm in a meeting replete with data, and the man presenting right now is the first person to say "datta" in recent memory. Most of my colleagues are, apparently, in the "dayta" camp with me.
posted by janell at 2:49 PM on January 29, 2013


From this website, the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (Wells 2008) preference polls show:
British English ˈdeɪtə 92%, ˈdɑːtə 6%, ˈdætə 2%;
American English ˈdeɪțə 64%, ˈdæțə 35%, ˈdɑːțə 1%.

So, about 2/3rds of Americans pronounce it dey-tuh, but there seems to be a consensus that it's more of an individual than a regional preference.
posted by halogen at 2:52 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I self-consciously say "dayta" because I'm a Trekkie.

I have vague memories of there being a time when most people around me said "datta" and I said it the Star Trek way out of personal conviction, but now I feel like most people I know say "dayta", Trek fans or not.
posted by Sara C. at 3:14 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having worked in IT storage (data) management for 20-something years, in Australia, pronunciation of this word has fascinated me quite a bit over the years.

In school, it was always the more British "dar-ta", then the same when I started working in IT.

Then, around the early 2000's, when things like international teleconferencing and internet video became more accessible, we began conversing more with people from other parts of the world - primarily the US and South East Asia.

Almost all of these people said "day-ta". As a result of this more "globalised" technical pronunciation, people around me, including myself, have slowly changed our pronunciation to use "day-ta" more frequently (although most of us still seem to subconsciously switch between the 2 pronunciations with no rhyme or reason).

I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "daaaa-ta", other than on TV, like the short serving Dr Pulaski on ST:TNG.
posted by Diag at 3:14 PM on January 29, 2013


Yeah, I recently re-watched the episode of TNG where Pulaski "mispronounces" Data and it sounded especially jarring. Not just "mispronouncing a character's name" jarring, as it would have been in 1988, but "that is not how I usually hear that word pronounced" jarring.
posted by Sara C. at 3:17 PM on January 29, 2013


I remember pronouncing it "datta" and being the only one who did in elementary school. Boston area.
posted by Hactar at 3:58 PM on January 29, 2013


Dahta. New Zealand. And I call Data from ST Dahta as well. But then I pronounce NASA as NahSA, much to the consternation of my (also New Zealander) friends.
posted by The Monkey at 4:00 PM on January 29, 2013


My guess is that folks who actually work with data pronounce it datta.

Your guess is parochial and wrong.
posted by pompomtom at 4:05 PM on January 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Agreed -- 33 years in the IT field, both East- and West Coast USA, and the amount of times I've heard datta are insignificant -- it's dayta, (with or w/o TNG).
posted by Rash at 4:13 PM on January 29, 2013


Anecdatum here: It's my observation that most physicists in the US pronounce it dayta. Some of my non-scientist friends and family will say datta, and it always sounds weird to me.
posted by partylarry at 4:29 PM on January 29, 2013


I just thought about it and I say both. Mid-Atlantic US.
posted by downing street memo at 4:47 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I work with it for a living.
posted by downing street memo at 4:48 PM on January 29, 2013


For me, datta is used by people without proximity to the data industries as well as older technical people.
posted by rhizome at 4:50 PM on January 29, 2013


Traveling consultant in the sciences here. In the 80s, it was dah-ta. These days, I hear day-ta almost exclusively, even working with international teams. I've probably heard the work a hundred times just today (currently in South Carolina, but based out of Southern California).
posted by kamikazegopher at 5:32 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I work with it every day...and call it dayta.
posted by lulu68 at 5:41 PM on January 29, 2013


Dayta. This is non-negotiable. I believe I feel so strongly because at some very early point in my 40-year career (which has been almost exclusively in and around IT) someone I respected made a point of saying it was dayta. Possibly to correct me. I don't remember exactly.

Same with eekonomics, though I do recall that it was a professor who drilled that one into me.

I cringe when I hear echo-nomics and datta. It sounds uneducated and lazy, and makes me suspect the speaker is uninformed about eeekonomics and dayta.
posted by caryatid at 5:54 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I believe it is profession-related, not regional. Techies say dayta, marketing people say datta.
posted by caryatid at 6:02 PM on January 29, 2013


someone I respected made a point of saying it was dayta

Maybe you just took their opinion too seriously. Miriam-Webster gives both pronunciations for data (dayta is the first one) and for economics (echo-nomics first in that case). Also, the dude who says "economics" has more of a midwestern accent than I do, and that's saying something.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:50 PM on January 29, 2013


It sounds uneducated and lazy, and makes me suspect the speaker is uninformed about eeekonomics and dayta.

When people make assertions like this, it sounds parochial and lazy, and makes me suspect the speaker has never left the USA (I say, as a dahta analyst with a background in ekonomics).

Also, I believe it is profession-related, not regional. Techies say dayta, marketing people say datta.

Where you live, maybe.
posted by pompomtom at 7:32 PM on January 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Background: Australian here, never worked in a data-heavy or IT-related field.

Everyone I know says 'dah-ta'. Occasionally I hear 'day-tuh', and I assume the speaker has watched too much American tv.

Don't think I've ever heard 'datta' spoken in real life.
posted by Salamander at 7:41 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was growing up in the 1970s (US Midwest), I would say that the conventional wisdom was that DAYta was the British pronunciation and DAHta was the preferred, but not exclusive, American pronunciation. There were also somewhat confusing rules about compound usage. But the most prevalent usage for most people was the phrase "DAHta processing".

My personal feeling is that while Data, the ST:TNG character, may have had some influence, it started earlier. The compound "database" flows much more easily if you say DAYtabase rather than DAHtabase. Before that, the company name Control Data was pretty much always Control DAYta. You can find the pronunciation even earlier.

I do not feel the difference is between people who know computers and people who don't (i.e. marketing) -- which used to be a real thing, you know; rather, there were disciplines where one pronunciation or the other was more dominant.
posted by dhartung at 11:55 PM on January 29, 2013


Hmm, interesting...contrary to what I expected, all the British English dictionaries I've pulled up online have listed the 'day-ta' pronunciation. This is, apparently, accepted BrEng and USEng pronunciation.

Maybe it's just us Aussies that roll with 'dah-ta', then??
posted by Salamander at 12:07 AM on January 30, 2013


Aussie here, chiming in for "dah-ta".
posted by FrereKhan at 4:53 AM on January 30, 2013


The compound "database" flows much more easily if you say DAYtabase rather than DAHtabase.

Interesting, because I would say DAYta but also DAHtabase. DAYtabase seems awkward.
posted by bongo_x at 6:41 AM on January 30, 2013


Thanks, all. I didn't get what asked for, but I gather I'm asking the wrong question. The anecdata was fun, though.
posted by janell at 7:50 AM on February 7, 2013


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