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I'm looking for a professional-context appropriate synonym for the word "a lot", but with the additional expression of "each contributes only a little"

For example,

To fill up that vat you'd need a crapload of tennis balls.

Here "crapload" implies that each individual tennis ball is actually worthless on it's own. Where the vat is big, "crapload" serves to color the sentence.

Unfortunately "crapload" is unprofessional. "A lot" is just colorless. Suggestions?

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I think you're mistaken in your assumption that the word crapload itself implies numerous "low-value" or otherwise "insignificant" elements. More common equivalents in British English are shitload and (euphemised, but still colloquial) shedload, but I'm sure AmE is the same - the elements are only "small" by implication because even a very large number of them will only fill a vat (not, say, a swimming pool). If you have a crapload / shitload / shedload of work to do, that certainly doesn't imply "a large number of very small tasks" - it just means a lot of work in total. –  FumbleFingers Aug 6 '12 at 13:14
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4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Two suggestions:

To fill up that vat you'd need a great many tennis balls.

To fill up that vat you'd need countless tennis balls.

The phrase a great many is often used to convey the idea of an awful lot; with a great many hits on Google books (well over a million, in fact).

Countless doesn't really mean uncountable, but suggests that it might take a truckload of time to count all the tennis balls.

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Agreed - in OP's context, a great many would be normal phrasing, but most people would find plethora or myriad somewhat "flowery", to say the least. –  FumbleFingers Aug 6 '12 at 13:18
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Plethora ("An excessive amount or number; an abundance") and myriad ("A countless number or multitude (of specified things)" or (now historical) "Ten thousand") are used in such contexts; or you can use both: "To fill up that plethoric vat you'd need a myriad of tennis balls." Note, plethoric does not necessarily mean many, but instead "overabundant or rife", "excessive", or "ruddy in complexion", depending on what or who you apply it to. You could also say an army of tennis balls or a whole host.

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+1 for myriad; not so sure about plethora since I don't think he means to imply a surfeit. –  bib Aug 5 '12 at 17:27
    
... and I'm used to seeing plethora used in the context of variety. +1 for myriad :) –  coleopterist Aug 5 '12 at 17:47
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"To fill up that vat you'd need a crapload of tennis balls."

Depending on the level of professionalism you are looking for:

"To fill up that vat you'd need a(n) zillion/gazillion/myriad/innumerable number/staggering number/countless number of tennis balls."

For such situations, a thesaurus is usually very handy.

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A variant on this one can be rather amusing in everyday conversation, if you use "billions and billions," and utter it with your best Carl Sagan impression. –  J.R. Aug 5 '12 at 18:33
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I'm guessing it doesn't have to be limited to the whole "tennis balls and vat" example above.

If so, I'd suggest: a barrage of

The Free Dictionary defines this word as:

an overwhelming and continuous delivery of something

so it fits in business/ professional settings.

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