in Claverings

Chapter 39 – Farewell to Doodles

I think she’s a medium—or a media, or whatever it ought to be called

Doodles says this to Archie about Sophie Gordeloup just before Hugh and Archie depart for their yacht trip.  The Latin word medium is the neuter singular form of the adjective medius, media, medium; as a substantive, medium means “a thing in the middle.”  It can also refer to an intermediary or a means of communication.  In English the word can be used as a noun in the same sense, or to mean a substance through which an effect is transmitted, but here Doodles employs its meaning of a person who acts as an intermediary between dead spirits and the living.  [SH 2012]

Doodles knows enough about Latin to want to make the Latinate “medium” reflect Sophie’s gender, so he removes the Latin neuter ending -um and adds the Latin feminine ending -a.  The result is silly, since English “medium” in the sense of “spiritual intermediary” is used to refer to either a man or a woman.  Doodles is perhaps trying to show a certain amount of finesse and gentlemanly knowledge, but he ends up seeming inept.  [RR 2013]

Source:  OED.