This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Word To Use Today: media.

After last Friday's almost impossible hieracosphinx, I thought that this week I'd choose something completely at random from the dictionary. 

Well, nothing could be harder than hieracosphinx, could it.

Well, no, luckily it couldn't, because we've ended up with media.

As a matter of fact my random finger landed on the Media which is the ancient land of the Medes (as in the Medes and the Persians). But as the Medes were conquered in 550 BC by Cyrus the Great* and their land then pretty much ceased having any right to be called Media, it's fortunate the word has other uses.

First off, mixed media is not a combination of radio and newspapers, but a description of a work of art made with more than one sort of stuff: bronze and plastic, for instance, or oil paint-and-lace, or dried ants and old lettuce leaves or something. 

The phrase 'the media' describes the communication of usually transient things such as the news. Sometimes the media is used as a plural (the media have been promulgating more lies) and sometimes as a singular (the media is having a nervous breakdown). Technically media is a plural, that of the word medium. I don't have strong feelings either way, but some people do get terribly upset if media is treated as a singular, so it's probably best to do it only on occasions when you feel like being annoying.

If you really want to annoy someone, then use media as a singular to mean either part of the wall of a blood vessel, or else one of the main veins on an insect's wing, and then, when people start emitting steam through their ears, point out sweetly that in this case media is a singular, of which the plural is mediae.

But that's only if you want to make a life-long enemy, natch.

Word To Use Today: media. The Latin medius means middle.

*I suppose if you've got to be conquered, it does help a bit that it's by Someone the Great, doesn't it. Think how galling it would be to be conquered by Cyrus the Pathetically Weedy, or Cyrus the Quite Frankly a Bit Useless, Really.

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