In Many Ways

Remember “Milliways, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”? Its name paradoxically combines the idea of a multitude of routes with the ultimate singular event—the end of everything.

Today I ran across an example in the Seattle Times which reminded me of Milliways. An architect says of the home the home he remodeled "“In many ways, there is no longer any backyard to the house.”

Many people say “in many ways” when no such thing is meant. Often there are only two or three alternatives involved. It’s a lazy way of not bothering to specify how many there are. With some people it’s a linguistic tic which means almost nothing.

How many ways can a backyard not exist? He doesn’t say.

I suppose you could say there’s no lawn, no patio, no chicken coop—the possibilities are endless. Maybe the back fence of the lot is nailed to the rear of the house.

But considered as a mere fact of non-existence, there’s just one way it doesn’t exist: by not existing.

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