Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Let's Form a Collective

Look at that flock of cows!
Herd of Cows.
'Course I've heard of cows.
Cow Herd?
I don't care what the cow heard. I got no secrets from cows.

It's a funny old thing, English. (That's the language not the people though, granted, they're funny too.) I was considering this earlier whilst pondering on the murmuration of starlings swooping above the shopping trolleys in Tesco, Old Swan. (Nary a swan to be seen, mind you.) Murmuration suggests, well, murmuring but these birds were raucous chatterers. A prattle of starlings would be more appropriate. Let's leave the murmuration to Librarians. (Of whom -Welcome to our country!)

Collective nouns are beautiful but bizarre. Prides of lions ... Are lions proud? Are they more noble, arrogant, illustrious and self-satisfied than any other beast? The peacock'd have something to say about that, I'm sure. (Edit: Did have something to say and now, in beastly one-upmanship, comes in an ostentation.)

Or take baboons. They come in a troop, congress, rumpus, or flange. (I suspect flange is a wicked calmuny. Writers of dictionaries invent things all the time, mainly as acts of revenge.)

Buffalos come in gangs, herds or obstinacies. Do mules therefore come in stubbornesses? Alas, the poor mules come in a rake or barren.

Of course, one goes looking for these collective nouns and some wag, wit or Writer of Dictionaries has got there first.

An implausibility of platypi, a parcel of penguins? What fool would try to parcel a penguin? And the name for a group of monks is an abomination. No, quite seriously, it is an abomination.

What have crows and ravens ever done - except help the Vikings find land? - to warrant being grouped in murders and unkindnesses? But a pandemonium of parrots, a parliament of owls, a cloud of bats all are gorgeous and make perfect sense.

Do slimmers and opera singers come in scales? Journalists in columns? How about a wager of gamblers? A thicket of idiots? A number of mathematicians?

I am slapping down the gauntlet. Firstly, what is your favourite collective noun and secondly, how should teachers, writers, poets (gruntled and disgruntled), vicars, students and bloggers be grouped?


  1. Mornings are usually my best time for your kind of challenge. But I could only come up with a 'template' of bloggers.

    Good post though. A really enjoyable read.

    Oddly, your WV was dedrest

  2. Thank you, Martin.

    Erm, what's a WV? I can only think of Wicked Vicar and he's very wicked and very much alive.

  3. For now, I'm going to chicken out like Martin and offer my own lame excuse that it's the wrong end of the day for brilliance. I'll think about it while I sleep though.

    Very fun post. I'm from the Wild West but never knew about obstinacies of buffalo.

  4. Thank you, Martin. Blogging is an education!

  5. Cloud of bats? I always thought it was a masturbation of bats? Ok, how about...
    A Procrastination of Writers
    A Shard of Poets
    A Murmer of Librarians
    An Elucidation of Bloggers...

    p.s. where did you get that cow pic from? Out of a cattle-log?

  6. And my WV was - lumpi. Is it taking the piss?

  7. and the one for that was peebrist... definitely taking the piss (sorry - I'm going to stop now)

  8. Right, I have to come clean (as the washerwoman said to the vicar), I pretended that I had been educated by Martin, whereas really I am none the wiser and now, because of Broken Biro, I am even more confused!

  9. Ahh, I've just worked out what a WV really IS.

    Luckily, I'm spending the weekend in Suffolk where the pace of life is much, much slower ...

    I might even see a flock of cows.

  10. BB, excellent collective nouns.

    How about a Finger of Stool Pigeons?