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I acknowledge that one of “multiple’s” definitions is “many.” But “multiple” connotes more than just being more than one: there is a division from the whole aspect to “multiple” that “many” lacks. “Multiple personalities” are notable because they are different minds inhabiting the same brain. “Many personalities” would mean a gathering of people with disaparate points of view, within nothing in common like a shared noggin. Multiples are the same number added over and over. So it bothers me that today people are using “multiple” as a fancy way of saying “many.” Mostly because it’s a fancy way of saying the same thing, in violation of the simplicity of language principle (reduce syllables and letters). But also because it cheapens “multiple,” which has a defined sense of its own. Even if it has multiple definitions, “multiple” deserves better than to be cheapened by the wants of “many.”
On a related note, an office worker told me she counts “1, couple, few, several, many, many, many …” She interprets “couple” to mean only 2. No exceptions. A “few” for her is exactly 3, no more no less. “Several” is exactly 4. Hell breaks loose at 5. I’m choosing to be amused by this, because I’ve given up trying to explain that even if this is what she means (and the few=3 thing is funny), she will very often talk to people who have different ranges for each of these words. I have some sympathy for those who think “couple” is exactly 2, but the rest of these words are nonspecific by nature, even if they imply a range of quantity: many > several > few > couple.
Finally, though it seems a lot less substantive, doesn’t “a lot of” mean exactly the same as “many”?
I can go back to what I was doing now … I still have a few minutes left on my lunch hour.
Can I suggest that multiple is apt in your examples precisely because it carries this she of multiplicity.
And your examples are horrific because there are so many things going on at once. Cars all a-smash in one giant heap. The heavens gone mad, venting their fury on a small farmhouse in Kansas. Our hero gasping his last as his life streams out of him through holes in his pure heart.
Sure, many can be used. But multiple should be saved for scenes like these, where synchronicity reigns!