Word Usage – Myriad

(Note: There is no proof that this conversation is canonical, nor do I know if this word is used in the Shire. Also, I do not own Merry or Pippin; however, they had so much fun helping me out with the grammar rule post, that they decided to help me out with this word usage post. 🙂 )

It was time for afternoon tea, and Merry and his friend Pippin were coming home after a long walk in the Shire.

“I’m starving, Merry!” Pippin said suddenly. “I could eat a myriad of mushrooms I’m so hungry!”

“Oh, but Pippin, I don’t think you’re using myriad right,” Merry said, concerned for his friend’s improper word usage. “It should be myriad mushrooms since myriad is an adjective,” corrected Merry. This seemed to go over Pippin’s head, so Merry tried clarifying. “You wouldn’t say I could eat countless of mushrooms would you?”

Pippin shook his head.

“Then you shouldn’t use myriad of, since countless of is essentially what you are saying,” finished Merry.

“I don’t think so,” Pippin said. “I’ve always heard myriad of. After all, it is a noun.”

“No,” replied Merry, “Myriad is an adjective.”

They couldn’t agree on myriad’s part of speech. The two Hobbits were confused (as well as hungry!). What were they going to do? Well, Merry and Pippin, read this post, and you’ll have your answer. 🙂

The question is whether the word myriad is a noun or an adjective. To use an “of” or not to use an “of” after the word. Which is correct? To answer this question, let’s start at the beginning. The very beginning. Back to the Ancient Greeks, actually. Myriad used to be the Greek word myrias meaning “ten thousand,” and it was used most commonly as a noun. From there it can be traced to the Latin word myrias and then to the French word myriade in the 1550s. What does this have to do with knowing whether to use an “of” after it or not? Well, a lot actually. You see, myriad started life most commonly as a noun. Even in our English language it was used as a noun. Then around 1800, the adjective form of myriad came along and was so frequently used, it came to be thought, even today, to be the only correct usage of the word. However, both uses of the word are correct.

So, the point of this long-drawn-out story is that both Hobbits are right.

“You see, Merry, we’re both right!” cried a triumphant Pippin.

Merry shook his head. “Well, I guess you were right, Pippin. But I still don’t think you can eat a myriad of mushrooms. That’s a lot.”

Pippin rubbed his stomach, “You’d be surprised, Merry. I think I can eat myriad mushrooms, and I’d like to start now!”

With this dilemma out of the way, the Hobbits could focus on the more important things in life – such as finally enjoying their afternoon tea and seeing just how many mushrooms Pippin could eat.

In case you’re still a bit confused or want to read more about this word, here’s a link to a really helpful article I found:

http://www.talkwordy.com/2009/02/a-myriad-of-misconceptions-well-just-one-really/

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Merry and Pippin for their help! 🙂

~ Kayla

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