January 10, 2008

Weekly Language Usage Tips: apostrophes, myriad

Posted in apostrophes in dates, myriad at 1:13 am by dlseltzer

  • This week’s first tip focuses on the use of apostrophes when referring to a decade (e.g., the 1960’s, the 1990’s). The tip is: DO NOT use an apostrophe when referring to this sort of date. The reference is not possessive nor a contraction and should be simply written as “the 1960s” or “the 1990s.” The only time an apostrophe comes into play is when you are writing using the abbreviation for the decade as in the ’60s or the ’90s.
  • The second tip is about the use of “myriad.” Originally the word meant “ten thousand;” however, over time. it has come to mean “innumerable, countless, many, etc.” It is acceptable to use the word as a noun: “a myriad of soldiers” or an adjective: “myriad soldiers.” Either is correct. Its use as an adjective is more common these days. (Check the dates of the quotes below where it is used as a noun.) When used as a noun, standard usage is that it takes a plural verb. For example, “A myriad of soldiers are going to town.”

“For the moment, the jazz is playing; there is no melody, just notes, a myriad tiny tremors. The notes know no rest, an inflexible order gives birth to them then destroys them, without ever leaving them the chance to recuperate and exist for themselves…”
Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

“Men are the enemies of women. Promising sublime intimacy, unequalled passion, amazing security and grace, they nevertheless exploit and injure in a myriad subtle ways. Without men the world would be a better place: softer, kinder, more loving; calmer, quieter, more humane.”
Annie Oakley (1860-1926)

“But in the rarer sort, who presently see their own frustrated claim as one among a myriad, the inexorable sorrow takes the form of fellowship and makes the imagination tender.”
George Eliot (1819-1880)

“Mastering the lawless science of our law, That codeless myriad of precedent, That wilderness of single instances.”
Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)


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