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From this Wikipedia page (referenced by this deleted question)...

Buckley is the 99th most numerous name in Ireland.

Can anyone explain why I find the above usage "odd", whereas I have no problem with...

Helobdeila stagnalis, a carnivore, is the most numerous and widely distributed leech in Colorado.

(I know "most common" works for both contexts; why doesn't the same apply to numerous?)

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Numerous refers to a collection that is great in number. I mentioned in my answer on the deleted question the example of numerous rabbits, which can be read as a collection of rabbits that is great in number (or something similar - I don't have enough rep to view it).

It seems to me that the word numerous only applies to collections with countable, distinct elements. So the usage in this case is wrong because a single name does not qualify as a collection at all; it's simply the same name being used numerous times (times here is a collection). You can say

Buckley is the 99th most numerous family in Ireland

People named Buckley are the 99th most numerous group in Ireland

because here, family and people named Buckly are both collections of individual elements which can be counted (or numbered).

However, leeches is a collection which can be great in number. In particular, Helobdeila stagnalis is the sub-set of all leeches which is greater in number than any other sub-set (by species) within Colorado.

  • Sorry for making you answer all over again without having access to your previous text. Your loss, my gain, though. It's essentially the same answer, but I find it easier to understand this time around (so I'm sorta glad you couldn't just "cut & paste"! :) I think it's your use of the word "collection" here that helps clarify it for me (you didn't put it quite like that before). – FumbleFingers Apr 22 '13 at 22:20
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    @FumbleFingers Well I was just about to update my answer to include the point about collections when it was deleted. But thanks for reviving it, FWIW, I think it is an interesting question why one is right and the other wrong. – p.s.w.g Apr 22 '13 at 22:30
  • Yeah - we both agree there is something odd about that usage on Wikipedia, and I think you're on the right track here. Give it a day or two, and maybe someone else will enlighten us both a bit more. Sometimes I get really irritated by the "troll" who first asked this - assuming it's who I think it is, he's asked several very provocative questions. But he's banned from the site for reasons not related to the questions themselves, and it gets on my nerves when one of them piques my interest, then gets deleted before my curiosity is satisfied. – FumbleFingers Apr 22 '13 at 22:40

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