What is a bunch?

I find myself increasingly irritated by the growing popularity in the term “a bunch of …”

I’m irritated because it is invariably used to describe items that are not normally found in bunches. I was horrified last weekend to see the term employed by my favourite author, Audrey Niffenegger, in relation to crumbs, of all things!

The OED defines a bunch (noun) as “a cluster of things growing or fastened together” or “a collection; a lot (best of the bunch)” or “colloq: a group; a gang” and I assume it is the vague second definition that is partially responsible for the recent rise in use of the term. The verb is defined as “make into a bunch; gather into close folds” or “form into a group or crowd”

Perhaps I have an over-simplistic mind but for me, a bunch is a collection of items that can be or are found naturally bunched together (e.g. grapes, bananas, flowers); since the days of The Brady Bunch, I can just about see how it can be applied to people.

How does one bunch crumbs, though? Or – as heard on an American weather forecast last week – several days’ worth of rainy weather? How big, violent, lengthy or spectacular, for example, is “a bunch of storms”? Should I batten down the hatches, buy a sou’wester, maybe build a boat … or simply check that my brolly is not broken and my shoes don’t leak?

To me, using “a bunch of …” is an extremely lazy cop out, employed to save the user’s brain power in searching for a more suitable and accurate descriptive noun. For example, when Niffenegger’s Julia discovered “a bunch of crumbs” on the dining table, I’d have described it as a “scattering” or “spill” or “a few specks” or even “a tiny mountain” depending upon the image I wanted to invoke. Niffenegger left me puzzling over how to gather crumbs into a bunch, and it jarred me from the narrative flow. It was a crushing disappointment.

The English language is rich and beautiful and multi-faceted, and it provides us with hundreds of options when choosing how to describe something. Writers are castigated for over-using the word “said” when reporting their characters’ dialogue, but I feel the same about anyone who uses “a bunch of” as a lazy collective noun.

Do you agree? Or should I now expect a bunch of a deluge of defensive arguments against my viewpoint? 😉


About johannanield

Welsh author of a contemporary British romance trilogy
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One Response to What is a bunch?

  1. Pingback: October blues | Johanna Nield

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