Singular or plural?
I’ll quickly clarify what’s wrong with it: “big data”, even for the
most furious of the “‘data’ is always plural” warriors, simply has
to be a mass noun. As Geoff Nunberg says in the Language Log post,
“if you construe big data as a plural then it has to denote a
collection of large things, in the same way that big elephants
denotes a set of elephants that are each large”. But, of course, the
bigness of “big data” refers to the sheer number of datums*, not
each datum’s size. It’s far from clear what “a big datum” would even
mean. “Big data” can only be a singular noun.
If you prefer to use “data are”, by all means do: it’s not wrong, although it will probably sound a bit precious to most people. But 1) “data is” isn’t wrong either and 2) if you mindlessly apply “‘data’ is always plural”, in the manner of a word-processor grammar checker, you’ll end up with hideous infelicities like “big data are helping banks”, and you’ll look stupid as well as precious. So don’t do that.
I’ll stick with data is.
Original title and link: The Rise of Big Datums: Of Course ‘Data’ Can Be Singular ( ©myNoSQL)