My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby rdearman » Mon Apr 01, 2024 6:40 pm

I don't know. I like your post a bunch.
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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby Severine » Tue Apr 02, 2024 4:58 am

Le Baron wrote:
Severine wrote:All of that being said, it's a fallacy to assume that any linguistic shift happening during a period of time when average vocabulary sizes are dropping is automatically a devolution (whatever that might be taken to mean). I agree that "a bunch of" has no place in formal or professional writing, but when used in daily speech or informal writing, especially with one's friends and family, as a synonym for "a lot of," I don't think it's any cause for alarm.

My initial criticism was about it being used in formal situations and the fact that the crossover from ordinary vernacular to such speech or writing has increased significantly. In informal speech it's always less of a concern, though if you watch videos or hear audio of all age groups from the past, just speaking in an everyday way, the variety of vocabulary is refreshing.


Your original post talked about not liking the fact that people learning English use it, as you said, in an attempt to sound authentic. I took that as taking issue with its use in casual, everday speech, since sounding authentic by mixing in cool slang is not normally the sort of thing one does in a cover letter or when drafting a brief. A misunderstanding, perhaps? If you're really only taking issue with it in formal contexts, we're pretty much on the same page.

Le Baron wrote:I understand that everyone who uses it will now be annoyed with me and like any post that contradicts me.


I have a higher opinion of the maturity of people on the forums than that!
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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby zac299 » Mon Apr 08, 2024 1:02 pm

Not entirely relevant to your word "bunch"...

But this is a very interesting representation of what a large survey of people consider, on average, a large sliding scale of words to mean:

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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby Tumlare » Mon Apr 08, 2024 2:59 pm

zac299 wrote:
But this is a very interesting representation of what a large survey of people consider, on average, a large sliding scale of words to mean:



Interesting. I generally agree with the masses, although for me, 'quite good' is better than 'pretty good', sometimes even better than 'good' by itself.

But I am a native English speaker that uses the word 'bunch' quite often in many different contexts so perhaps I am not the most precise speaker.
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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby badger » Tue Apr 09, 2024 10:02 am

zac299 wrote:Not entirely relevant to your word "bunch"...

But this is a very interesting representation of what a large survey of people consider, on average, a large sliding scale of words to mean:

I'm surprised that "fine", which can be a contronym, doesn't have dual peaks.

"sick" might have been interesting, if the youth were part of the sample. ;)
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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby emk » Tue Apr 09, 2024 11:14 am

badger wrote:"sick" might have been interesting, if the youth were part of the sample. ;)

"Sick", in the positive sense, was first used by plenty of people who now have grey hair. The OED puts the first printed use in 1983, and it was pretty widely known in the US later in the 80s. So many of the "youth" in question are in their 40s, or even 50s.

Also, the oldest so-called "Millennials" are now in their 40s. :lol:

Getting back to the original subject of this thread, I have spent much of my life in the northeastern US, surrounded by plenty of people with excessively fancy educations. And as far as I can remember, the use of "a bunch" as a spoken term for a group of things has always been completely normal. But memory about word usage is notoriously unreliable. So let's try the OED:

Two friars are bargaining for a bunch of cherubs.
Athenæum, 1832

I know that gang of card sharps,..an' they're a bunch of butes at that!
A. H. Lewis, Boss, 1903

He met a bunch of railroad laborers on their way to their tent.
A. D. McFaul, Ike Glidden in Maine, 1903

When we see a company of Lacqueys at the tail of a coach, we say, There goes a Bunch of Caterpiller…
E. Phillips, New World of Words, 1696

A bunch of keys, which gave her a pleasant chatelaine look, compounded of a cellaress in a nunnery.
G. A. Sala, Seven Sons of Mammon, 1862

What shoold I rehers heer, what a bunch of ballets & songs all auncient... Hey ding a ding.
W. Patten, Letter Entertainment at Killingwoorth, 1578(?)

This is just a selection; there are more at the link.

Before 1900, many of the citations for "a bunch of" seem to be referring to either plants or (interestingly) keys. But usually the best place to capture historical colloquial speech is in letters, and we have "a bunch of ballets & songs" appearing in a letter in the late 1500s. The citations around 1900-1910 seem to refer, in many cases, to groups of people.

So I'd guess that "a bunch" is an old spoken form, in widespread use no later than 1910, but dating back over three centuries before that in at least some regions.

So for the ESL speakers on the forum, I don't see any need to scrub your speech of "a bunch of." It's excessively casual in formal writing, but it's ordinary and unremarked in speech and letters.
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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby Le Baron » Wed Apr 10, 2024 10:36 pm

I'm not greatly convinced those quotations reflect more widespread historical usage. Though it's quite possible that has been more common in some historical vernaculars. Referring to people as a 'bunch' is not really problematic, although it's a lazy plural classification. Back in the 1930s to '50s (in England at least) people used to say 'a pack of' e.g. fools or liars or robbers etc (and pack of lies is now a fixed expression). Which is an imprecise collective noun, but just informal speech and at least relevant to groups of living things, like e.g. a pack of wolves or dogs. And for countable nouns. It would be a bit odd though it this was just extended to everything in plural.

I just bought a pack of books. I'm just going to do a pack of stuff.

What I find lazy and annoying is just mass application of a random collective noun which doesn't even suit most of the things to which it is applied. A 'bunch of spectators'? Or perhaps a 'crowd of spectators'? A panel of experts? Or shall we just plump for a 'bunch of experts'? Are we more afraid or a swarm of bees or a trendy 'bunch of bees'? All attached together so they can't fly apart. I feel safer with a 'bowl of porridge' than with a 'bunch' of it.

The attempts to explain away lazy language use and a collapse into mediocre expression always surprises me.
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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby cito » Sun Apr 14, 2024 6:26 pm

Le Baron wrote:The attempts to explain away lazy language use and a collapse into mediocre expression always surprises me.

I don't really understand this mentality given that language is a fluid thing that changes, which is something we are all aware of. And vernacular is vernacular for a reason, as the "mediocrity" of spoken language seems to be the lament every generation has of the next.

And where does this line of thinking lead us to? If we take "a lot of," or "lots of," we return to the same issue that "a bunch of" has; this also applies to tons, heaps, loads, and piles. So, what do we do? Do we create words for each object, or put them into classifications in order to count them, like some East Asian languages, bring out the ruler and hit everyone's knuckles for saying "a bunch of crows" instead of "a murder of crows" or an "obstinacy of buffalos" or a "parliament of rooks?" Seems inefficient. But what's this? All this French vocabulary in my blessed Anglo-Saxon? "Inefficient?" "Vocabulary?" Preposterous! Ugh! Damnation! No! I just cannot escape-- evade-- no... uhh... get away from these French words! To Hell with you tongue-shift! From here now and hereafter, I shall speak but the words of the beloved English tongue, unhindered by the French... this is getting too frustrating to avoid French loan-words-- perhaps, point fait?

My point in this short drama is to point out that frustration over linguistic change is a complete waste of time. It is inescapable, and we can become frustrated to the point of annoyance or rage, but it is like being angry that waves crash on the strand, or that wind rushes ahead: there is no stopping it. What's the solution? Choose what x or y person can say? Force everyone to speak Old English without the Old Norse vocabulary, or Latin, but it's Latin if you purged it of all of it's lovely Greek words? Perhaps we go further back? Reconstructed on Italic Dialects? Gothic? Sanksrit? Proto-Indo-European? Proto-World? Grunts and barks? From now on... grunts and barks! Ruff Ruff!
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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby Le Baron » Sun Apr 14, 2024 7:05 pm

cito wrote:I don't really understand this mentality given that language is a fluid thing that changes, which is something we are all aware of. And vernacular is vernacular for a reason, as the "mediocrity" of spoken language seems to be the lament every generation has of the next.

The difference is that I've never really seen or heard: 'tons, heaps, loads, and piles' being used for practically every reference to nouns. Not even in vernacular speech.

The 'language is a fluid thing that changes' rejoinder is exactly what I was referring to with those attempts to explain away everything as 'change' or 'normal evolution'. I'm talking about mediocre language use.
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Re: My general annoyance at the use of 'bunch'

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Sun Apr 14, 2024 7:13 pm

This topic got me thinking of genius Allan Sherman.

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