Does "a hundred" mean literally in the following context?

Those unable to decipher the hidden meaning know nevertheless that it is there, for it is felt in all wolf country, and distinguishes that country from all other land. It tingles in the spine of all who hear wolves by night, or who scan their tracks by day. Even without sight or sound of wolf, it is implicit in a hundred small events: the midnight whinny of a pack horse, the rattle of rolling rocks, the bound of a fleeing deer, the way shadows lie under the spruces.

Context: Thinking Like a Mountain By Aldo Leopold

According to the context, the literal meaning is not intended by the writer. Therefore, we should say it just means "a lot" or means something like "hundreds of", but then why the writer should say that?

It is clear to me that "hundreds of" might be meant metaphorically. But "a hundred" seems to have a bit of amphibology, doesn't it?

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  • Amphibology? I'm not sure what ambiguity you are talking about. – NVZ Jan 18 '17 at 3:11
  • @NVZ "hundreds" doesn't have a bit of ambiguity "a hundred of" has. – Sasan Jan 18 '17 at 3:16
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    There is no "a hundred of" in your example. There is "a hundred", which may be replaced by "hundreds of". There is no ambiguity here, to me at least. – NVZ Jan 18 '17 at 3:18

In this context, it is basically understood that a hundred is meant metaphorically. It's equivalent to hundreds (or countless or so many, etc.)

In other words, it's the same as saying something like:

I have a million things to do today, or
I've got a couple thousand calls to return this afternoon.

Rarely would anyone think those statements are meant to be taken literally.

  • It is clear to me that "hundreds of" might be meant metaphorically. But "a hundred of" has at least a bit of amphiboly. – Sasan Jan 18 '17 at 3:04
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    It's not "a hundred of." It's "a hundred" or "hundreds of." And no, it is not ambiguous. No one would think it meant exactly 100 small events, no more, no less. A fluent English speaker would understand the metaphor. – freeling10 Jan 18 '17 at 3:15
  • @NVZ so now it is more polite. The point is that "hundreds" doesn't have both literal and metaphorical meaning, but "a hundred" does. – Sasan Jan 18 '17 at 3:20
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    You are right. it is "a hundred" in the original text too. – Sasan Jan 18 '17 at 3:22
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    I think it is a matter of style. We could quibble about the idea that 'a hundred' is less than 'hundreds of' (mutiples of hundreds) but I don't think that is the emphasis. Consider "I could name a hundred" and "I could name hundreds". The choice says something about the speaker, if nothing else. The guy using the first might just start naming them out to us one by one as well documented footnotes while the second speaker just wanted to make the point and move on to the rest of the discussion perhaps? Tone of voice, formality, precision etc. affect how we receive information. – Tom22 Jan 18 '17 at 3:49

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