Tricky Words in this week‘s OVI
Data. Strictly speaking this word should be treated as plural in meaning, because it’s taken straight from Latin, where it originally meant “given things”, and the singular form was datum. Hence in Slovak, Czech and German that word is used to indicate the specific number of individual days in the month, while in French and English it has been modified to date. (A reminder at this point that date is the normal translation of termín, a typical tricky word, because English term means doba, e.g. long-term, term deposit, school term, i.e. semester). The word datum is sometimes used in English in the sense of sea-level. So if data is actually a plural form, then strictly speaking we should say “the data are accurate” or “the data were analyzed”, and the relative pronoun is “they”, e.g. “We’ve checked the data, and they confirm our suspicions”.
The other day I was asked about the difference between “We’ve been living here for 20 years” and “We’ve lived here for 20 years”. The first thing is to ignore the long-term ingrained idea that “have been living” means “we still live here”, because it doesn’t. It’s predprítomný čas, which is a very good name, so it means up until today, and that’s all. Living is an activity, a process, so the typical form is “we have been living”, and there’s no information about the end of the activity, so it suggests (and everybody presumes) that we still live here. The form “we have lived” expresses the idea that something has ended or is completed – but it’s not the activity of living that’s ended, it’s the period of twenty years (to date) that we’ve completed, so everybody should understand that twenty years is a remarkable length of time, že je to značná doba.