Media and mediums

Ok – I admit that I suffer from fogeyism from time to time. And although not perfect by any means, do get distraught over what seems a misuse of the English language.

For any non-British readers, I’m referring to what has now become “British English”. Other regional variations of our mother tongue and the Queen’s vernacular may vary.

Anyway, today’s discussion is on the word media. It turns out that apart from a change in usage (to make “the media” or “USB media”, for example, into a singular), there are a variety of plural forms for both medium and media.

Yup – ignoring some geographical definitions of media, there is a biological definition to do with blood and lymph vessels which has the plural mediae. Nice one medics, that looks like a proper Latin word.

Less satisfactorily, there have been examples of medias as a plural. This supposes that media is a singular, and is apparently used without discomfort by the advertising profession. I really cannot bring myself to write an example though.

It turns out that media (singular) has other technical meanings, for example a “voiced stop”. I presume this is a linguistic thing, rather than something to do with getting pipe organ pipes to speak correctly. I love this language!

So what about medium? It is a size (and I guess that you could say that “all the clothes on that rail are mediums and larges” although “all the clothes on that rail are medium or large” seems better to me), a type of material (as in “the artist mainly uses watercolour as her medium, though on occasion she uses mixed media”). It is also someone who acts as an intermediate between the spirit and physical words, and they have the plural mediums. (Love Terry Pratchet’s example: “Mrs Evadne Cake was a medium, verging on small.”)

So – take your choice: medium/mediums/media; media/mediae/medias.

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