Make “Multiple” Go Away!

LOL! This rant is brought to you courtesy of  the academicese in the latest promotion and tenure documents sent over by one of my editorial clients. But the term in question also surfaces in journalese, officese, psychobabblese, bureaucratese, and just about any other -ese you can think of. The endlessly annoying “multiple” has burrowed its way into our language like a hive of multiple goddamn termites. It is a word almost devoid of meaning: it is so vague that you have no idea whether the speaker means “two” or “billions and billions.” Apparently people use it because it engages three Latinate-sounding syllables to say what one can say in one syllable without wasting breath, ink, paper, or bandwidth. Makes them sound brainy and important, eh?

Forgodsake, say what you mean. And never use a word that makes you sound like you’re speaking around a mouthful of marbles!

“Multiple” could mean . . .

  • some
  • lots
  • many
  • a number of
    • a large number of
    • a small number of
    • an infinite number of
    • a limited number of
  • quantities of
    • a large quantity of
    • a small quantity of
  • a lot
  • a few
  • a little
  • a couple
  • several
  • plenty
  • vast numbers of
  • a number that can be divided by another number without a remainder (four is a multiple of two; fifteen and twenty are multiples of five)
  • having several parts, elements, or members (a multiple-occupancy dwelling, a multiple birth)
  • of a disease, injury, or disability: complex, having several elements (a multiple fracture of the femur)
  • of an electrical circuit: one that has several points at which connection can occur
  • more than one
  • two, three, four, five…etc.
  • two or three, three or four, ten or twenty…etc.
  • a dozen (two dozen, three dozen, four dozen, etc.)
  • a half-dozen
  • dozens
  • hundreds
  • thousands
  • tens of thousands
  • millions
  • billions
  • trillions
  • zillions
  • more than we can count

The word “multiple” indeed does have meaning. Its specific meanings are bold-faced here. As for all the other words you think it means: please. Pick the word you mean. Not a piece of brain-numbing jargon.

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