Thursday, April 8, 2010

#933 on the List of Things That Confuse Me

To me, the phrase, "a number of" is completely bizarre. Unlike words such as "few", "some", "several" and "many", "a number of" is utterly ambiguous.

Check it out:

A number of ninjas were spotted loitering in the alley.

What does that mean? It could have been a million ninjas or just one. One is, after all, a number, right? How could a person possibly gauge how many ninjas they might be dealing with here?

The phrase is useful, I suppose, for making your life sound more scandalous or interesting than it actually is.

Ms. Hensel has married a number of men. (One.)

It is also useful for exaggerating modest accomplishments.

Ms. Hensel has traveled to a number of European countries. (Again, just one.)

So, in my mind, "a number of" gets bonus points for its usefulness toward intentional self-aggrandizement, but loses points for its unreliability in ninja tallying.

And now I must retire to my bedroom. I have a number of guys waiting for me in my bed.

No comments: