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About two years ago I watched some old Monty Python interviews. In one of them, Graham Chapman, a Brit, makes fun of Terry Gilliam (the only American) for his lack of vocabulary. He specifically cited a moment when the group flew over the great lakes and Gilliam said "there's a bunch of water".

I found this amusing. But it's also stuck with me. And ever since, every American I meet with seems to have an affinity for saying "a bunch" to describe anything with a high quantitative value.

This can be anything from purely literal (a bunch of parsley) -- though this doesn't bother me as much -- to the generally "many", such as "a bunch of candies" and almost sarcastically as in Gilliam's case (obviously several thousand cubic miles of water is a bit more than a "bunch").

But what is a solid alternative for these uses? Not that I'm looking for something to replace "a bunch" entirely. I find it can be useful and an endearing "Americanism". But I'd like to hear of some options.

EDIT: Maybe I can make this more specific and ask this: What would an appropriate British expression be for the Gilliam scenario above? Maybe something like "A Considerable Amount"?

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5  
Why not just say a lot of? –  Tristan r Jun 3 at 16:10
    
What @Tristanr said. It's true that we Americans totally abuse the word "bunch" - knowing full well it's not interchangeable with "a lot of". I guess we're incorrigible that way! :-) –  Kristina Lopez Jun 3 at 16:14
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horatio, it's a strange use of a bunch of. Normally in the UK, the only things in bunches are hair, keys, flowers and grapes. –  Tristan r Jun 3 at 17:01
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That's why we revolted...we wanted to bunch up stuff and you wouldn't let us. –  Oldcat Jun 3 at 17:44
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Would you "like to hear of some options?" Or would you like us to suggest a bunch of options? –  J.R. Jun 3 at 19:02

10 Answers 10

up vote 5 down vote accepted

A few more colorful alternatives: a ton, a mass, an abundance, a considerable amount, a mess, a slew, a spate, a profusion, a plethora.

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this is probably as close to a "correct" answer as I can see. –  Ramy Jun 3 at 20:25

A voluminous quantity of words in English can mean "a lot".

  • abundance
  • bundles/bundle
  • collection (maybe "quite a collection")
  • cornucopia (perhaps a stretch)
  • clump (sure, why not?)
  • conglomeration
  • glut
  • gobs/gob
  • great deal
  • heaps/heap
  • hills/hill
  • hoard
  • load
  • many/much
  • masses/mass
  • mountains/mountain
  • multitudes/multitude
  • oodles/ (or less common) oodle
  • panoply
  • peck
  • piles/pile
  • plenitude
  • plenty
  • plethora
  • profusion
  • reams/ream
  • scads/ (or less common) scad
  • slew
  • spate
  • stacks/stack
  • superfluity
  • surfeit
  • surplus
  • tons/ton
  • whole lotta (slang, when spoken a certain way will mean more than just "a whole lot of")

Plus probably many more! Note that most of these take an indefinite article as in "an abundance", but no article is used for plurals. When there is a plural and a singular, the plural is generally more common, though not always.

Many of these can also be intensified with a synonym of large, plus this allows for additional words that are synonyms of amount. Some exampless:

  • enormous amount
  • gigantic quantity
  • gargantuan pile
  • _ of Herculean proportions
  • truly Brobdingnagian _
  • large multitude
  • one major load -- "one" can be an intensifier indefinite article replacing "a"

Not all of the words in the first list work well with the "large" prefix--I wouldn't say "a huge plethora" or "a giant ton".

In general, when used with large, a plural word becomes more literal and seems to refer to many separate groups of items instead of one group. That is, "heaps of dirt" doesn't necessarily mean individual masses as it can be used figuratively to simply mean "a lot", however "giant heaps of dirt" more strongly suggests individual, separate masses.

Oh, one more thing, profanity can always be used to intensify. an [expletive] [intensifier] [lot] of [substance], or an [expletive]load for examples.

Regarding your more specific question, how about:

Now THAT is one sublimely prodigious pile of dihydrogen monoxide!

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Ovid was there first, as usual: Adde parvum parvo, magnus acervus erit. –  John Lawler Jun 3 at 21:00
    
I like ton or plethora. Of course you would not say "a plethora of water". –  Arlaud Pierre Jun 4 at 8:48
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@ArlaudPierre why not? –  ErikE Jun 4 at 15:25

Many objects have their own collective noun, so you should start by trying to find and use that. Some are well known e.g. A murder of crows, a flock of sheep, a pride of lions, and some are obscure e.g. A dole of doves.

For objects where you don't know what their specific collective noun is, there are nouns which are well understood in broader uses, I've mentioned some below and their common areas of usage.

For all: Group, Collection, Multitude

For animals: Shoal (fish), Flock (birds), Swarm/Nest (insects)

For plants: Clump, Cluster

For non-discrete entities (water, earth etc): Body, Mass

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Heap

You can use heap for anything, even if it's something that can't be heaped and even intangible stuff. You can pluralise it too into heaps.

Heap of trouble, heap of clothes, heap of love, heaps of water, heap o'shite, heaps of food.

Stack also works well

Stack of wood, stacks of dogs, stack of boxes, and all the above.

There must be heaps of words like this in English, probably even stacks of them.

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A Heap of water is an interesting concept. –  Oldcat Jun 5 at 0:10

You could say: Plenty of water or even: some water. the word some in such context and with probably deep voice means just the opposite (plenty of)

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Slew

slew: a large amount or number; a lot: a slew of unpaid bills

slew: Informal, chiefly N. American a large number or quantity of something: He asked me a slew of questions

Alternately, consider load(s).

load: a large quantity: lot --usually used in plural

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A term that has a somewhat sarcastic connotation (in most instances) is a passel

A large group of people or things of indeterminate number; a pack: a passel of journalists

Its usage in the US is evocative of old western films or archaic rural dialect, especially when said by us cityfolk.

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I rather like myriad which technically means 10,000 but figuratively can refer to a very large quantity of any countable object.

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Load and loads work just as well as bunch.

  • There's a load of water
  • There are loads of books on your desk
  • There's a load of books to carry
  • I had to study loads before my exams
  • Save loads of money on your car insurance

An even more colloquial (and vulgar) one-word expression is shitload, used to describe an impressive quantity of something.

  • I want a job that makes a shitload of money
  • I have shitloads to do
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It might depend on the degree of formality. "A bunch", either correctly or incorrectly applied, is more informal than for instance "a great amount/number", which in turn is more informal than "a considerable amount/number".

And indeed, many words require a specific collective noun, but this is only the case for countable nouns (which require 'many' instead of 'much'). For animals, there are a bunch of collective nouns available.

  • a herd of giraffes
  • a shrewdness of apes
  • a cete of badgers
  • a sloth of bears
  • a swarm of bees
  • a flock of birds
  • a clowder of cats
  • a team of ducks
  • a pack of hounds
  • a troop of monkeys
  • a muster of peacocks
  • an unkindness of ravens
    • etc...

You should look it up if you know for which noun you want an appropriate collective noun. As for water, which is not a countable noun but a mass noun, I would stick with something like "a considerable amount of water" or "a redundancy of water".

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