Grammar Slammer #3 – A Multitude of Many, Myriad Sins


The rolling redundancy in our title may not go as far as you think, as we’re not referring to a whole lot of many, multifarious sins, but rather the mountain of misuses poor lyrical myriad has had to withstand.

Once a perfectly legitimate replacement for words like “many” or “various”, the word’s chronic overuse and annoying abuse since it came into vogue a few decades back has lowered the bedraggled adjective to second rate status.

How did this happen? While it would be fine to say there are myriad explanations, saying, as the majority of slammable speakers do, that there is “a” myriad “of” explanations, is not. It’s as though the word were a replacement for multitude, but nay. Multitude is a qualifying noun that requires the article “a” preceding it and the preposition “of” following it when singular, quite unlike the adjective many, myriad’s main synonym. We would never say “there was a many of different coloured cars”. But to the ears of myriad misusers, this sounds just fine. And here’s the rub. As most people make their judgements on language based on what sounds right, the main determiner of a grammatical decision comes not of what is correct, but merely what is most often heard. This is problematic on many levels.

Another example, of which the Slammer himself has been found guilty, is using the article “an” in from the hard ‘h’ word historical. The an is only used when the “h” is silent, but over the years of lazy articling, and often by those with otherwise good grammar, to the ears of many it has come to sound like the more intelligent construction.

And here is perhaps one of the darker holes of shame. Have you ever had that deeply embarrassing experience of being completely wrong, misinformed or misspeaking while trying to sound smart. Unless you are someone for whom shame is in generally short supply, it’s really one of the worst and most cringeworthy experiences.

So there we have it, myriad reasons not to mess with poor, lovely poetic myriad. But it’s all too much of muchness if ask me.

3 thoughts on “Grammar Slammer #3 – A Multitude of Many, Myriad Sins

  1. MJH

    Disagree with “an historical.” Likely it’s more to do with geography and the differences in how we say things from place to place, but also that one might stress the second consanant whilst pronouncing “historical,” whereas one stresses the first consonant in history. As regional dialects go, many drop the H, making the “an” practical.


  2. Tullycaster Post author

    Thanks for the comments. It is quite a grammaworm that one. But to MJH’s point, it has everything to do with accent and emphasis. So say we put on a nice Irish brogue, the “an” would do just dandily.


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