Myriad ways to say it

I'm feeling a wee bit trivial as everybody else argues about the election or the economy and I slog along minding our language. All I can say in my defense is that readers continue to show an interest. For example, this just in, from a reader named Wanda Lee:


YES! I have a language question! Mine is something that grates like chalk on a blackboard when I read it--but if editors at publishing companies don't correct it I figure I must be the one in the wrong. Please straighten this out for me.

"Myriad" or "a myriad of"? I've always considered "myriad" itself to mean the same as "a lot of," but now it seems either usage is OK with publishers. "A myriad of" reads to me the same as "a a lot of of" or "a many of of." To tell you the truth, I hope I'm wrong so I can get over it annoying me so because I think it's here to stay!

Thank you for a service that is so helpful--to some of us.

Wanda, just as you hoped ...

The "myriad" you like is a perfectly good adjective, as in this snippet from the Iowa City Press-Citizen:

Brian Flaherty, chairman of the Johnson County Democratic Party, ... added that myriad issues from health care to the war in Iraq to the nation's standing in the world have inspired people to volunteer.

But the word is also a perfectly good noun, as in this recent AP story:

A sampling of presidential campaign-oriented direct mail from some of the battlegrounds reveals a myriad of messages. 

Or this from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

It's difficult to tell how large the Obama or McCain campaigns' online networks are -- or how many e-mail addresses either have gathered.

But for Washington voters, that combined with a competitive gubernatorial race and a myriad of other hotly contested races and ballot measures could mean a lot of extra lunchtime reading -- or a lot of deleting.

(Well, yes, those bits are from political news -- language is relevant to everything!)
In fact, the noun came first, appearing in texts from the mid 1500s, whereas the adjective wasn't invented until almost 200 years later. And -- get this -- originally it meant 10,000 of anything, especially soldiers. So if an enemy force decimated a myriad ... Who wants to do the math?

Wanda, may I suggest you start thinking of "myriad" as roughly synonymous with both "numerous" and "a number of" or "plentiful" and "plenty of"? 

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