In Many Ways “In Many Ways” Is Filler When It Is Not Blather

I should be doing serious scholarship but for two obstacles.  First, I am not a serious scholar.  Second, I again have read the phrase “in many ways” as placeholder at least and subterfuge at worst.

When presenters lapse into “in many ways,” I regard it as an oral breather — a phrase with which to maintain one’s speech while formulating some substantive point.  Viewed in this perspective, “in many ways” is a throwaway not to be taken at all literally.  We might regard as a bounder anyone who would respond, “In many ways, eh?  Name three.”

More to my immediate point, however, we should almost always be unable to cough up three “ways,” reasons, factors, causes, influences, or whatever at which the dusty metaphor “in many ways” might be taken to point.

And that is my problem with “in many ways.”  Half-sly, we cover our uncertainty or imprecision with a phrase that the unwary may take as more backing or authority than we have.  Imagine the hilarity if some “truth serum” made us fill in our discursive blanks.  “In many ways, this proposition is obvious” might become “In many ways — not even one of which I am prepared to summon at the moment or I’d describe that way and skip hackneyed filler, but I do not want to have my reasoning stand or fall on that one way because I am not sure it’s a throughway, and so I am implying that all roads lead to my claim, and you would be a clod to call me on this because I let you get away with pretentious diction — the proposition I favor is the only reasonable position.”

In many ways, then, “in many ways” is claptrap when it is not merely throat-clearing or floor-holding or conch-clutching.

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One Response to “In Many Ways “In Many Ways” Is Filler When It Is Not Blather”

  1. O. Says:

    Yes, “in many ways,” “in some ways,” “to some degree,” and “to some extent” are [in many ways ;-)] characteristic of academic writing and of academic writers who hope to ward off criticism by using vague qualifying phrases and words. Bad experiences in seminars and with journal-peer-reviewers lead to such cautious padding. “In a certain sense” is a species in this genus.


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