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You have 99 bottles of wine. According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, do you have umpteen bottles of wine?

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Answer: no

According to the COD, to have indefinitely many or a lot of something is to have umpteen of that thing. For some reason, I initially had the answer as yes, but as everyone on Earth has noticed, 99 is a definite quantity, so the answer must be no.

The adjective umpteen derives from the noun umpty, which denotes an indefinite, but fairly large number.


Hm... but if you give an exact number as the example, can you really call that an "umpteen"? From the way the question was phrased, I took it to mean "Does the word umpteen mean 99?" to which I answered "No."

[Mootguy: I agree with you: My answer is wrong, so I'll have to change it.]
Stephanie, Japan

I think "maybe" would be a better answer. After all 99 bottles is a definite number, not "indefinitely many." Also, 99 bottles is "a lot" for me to have, but a minuscule number for a wine store or a good restaurant.

[Mootguy: You are correct. Change made.]
James Wood, Colorado

Sorry to be all curmudgeonly and pedantic, but 99 is not indefinite, nor (depending upon your wallet or your cellar) is it particularly "a lot" when it comes to bottles of wine. If you were talking about kittens in a studio apartment, I'd be inclined to be more lenient. Umpteen apologies for needless pendantry.

[Mootguy: As a rule, the best MooT players are both curmudgeons and pedants. You fit right in.]
Daphne Sams, Vancouver

I disagree with your question, I think you should have said that you have "more than 99 bottles of wine" this would be an indefinite number, 99 bottles is a definite number, another alternative would be that "you have nearly a 100 bottles".

[Mootguy: You are correct. Change made.]
Derek Seeley, New Zealand

If some of those bottles should happen to fall, umpteen bottles of wine on the wall. Only when we don't know a definite number would we use umpteen.

[Mootguy: You are correct. Change made.]
Bill Adams, London, Ontario

Hmm. My interpretation is that you 'could' have 99 bottles, or 98, or 101 uncounted bottles and refer to the quantity as umpteen. But to say 'if you have 99, do you have umpteen?' takes it out of the realm of indefinite. I know I'm being picky here, but what's etymology if not a place to be picky. Boo!

[Mootguy: You are correct. Change made.]
John Friesen, Vancouver

I'll have to be the contrarian here. According to the definition provided (i.e. "OR a lot of something", the answer must logically be yes, since "a lot of something" doesn't preclude its being a definite quantity. While "indefinitely many" is uncountable, "a lot" is countable. (I'm presuming that the word "indefinitely" doesn't modify "a lot" -- that would be ungrammatical.) In short, the definition given provides for umpteen being either a definite or indefinite quantity.

[Mootguy: Oh oh. Should I change the answer back?]
Jack Ognistoff, Vancouver, B.C.

I said no, but for a different (incorrect) reason. I thought the upteen might refer to the "teen" part of numbers from 13-19. As the Germans say: Man lernt nie aus!
Faith Jones

WOW! I like that word umpty!
Vicky Schoeman, Cape Town, South Africa

I agree with Jack O. That "or..." gives one an "indefinite" amount of wriggle room... But isn't it a great MooT question!
Lord Spar Hawk, Vancouver
______________________________________________________________ 'umpty--1905, "of an indefinite number," originally Morse code slang for "dash," influenced by association with numerals such as twenty, thirty, etc.; umpteen (1917) is World War I army slang, from umpty + teen.' In other words, "[dash] tens" or "[blank] tens," so i'd have said "any number of tens," including 9.9 tens, but apparently the number of tens MUST be unspecified.
Dana, Petaluma

I said no as I was thinking about the "nth" equating to umpteenth or umpteen which is an undefined and indefinite number but denotes several or more. "I told you for the nth/umpteenth time, I don't have 99 bottles of wine!" LOL, Cheers!
Mary Ann, Al Ain United Arab Emirates)

My experience with the word "umpteen" was more in the Southeast than in the Northeast, and there 99 bottles of wine to me have never been within the range described as "umpteen"; maybe an "umpty" bottles of wine. If we look at the word and its root, we see that "ump- (times) -ty (the value of ten), e.g.: 2x10=20, 5x10=50, etc. = umpty or anything between 20 and 99. "Ump- (plus) -teen (another version of ten), e.g.: 2+10=12, 5+10=15, etc. = anything between 13 and 19. Also, I fear many have forgot the original meaning of "lot": "an allotted share or a portion", be it food, land or an entity to be sold intact at an auction which might be one object or a group of objects. Its numerical value of "a lot" depends upon the noun described: "You have a lot of wine in your glass." "My Grandmother had a lot of children." and "It takes a lot of flowers to fill a garden of one acre."
Stephen, MA

Oddly, I had the response "no", even though I know of "umpteen", because I would say that 99 falls in the category of "umpty-ump", being a two digit number abover 19....
Mike Turniansky, Baltimore

So 'Umpty Dumpty broke into an indefinite, but fairly large number of pieces when he fell of the wall?
Clare Stewart, Hamilton

Surely "teen" gives the game away as not being as much as 99?
Oscar Davies, Jerusalem, Israel

I'm another in the 'yes' camp, based on the COD's 'or' qualifier (although I too assumed an implication of 'a large amount of something likely to be between 13 and 19' based on '-teen'. Maybe my confusion stems 99 bottles of wine I've just consumed for research purposes.
Will Bratby, Chatteris

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