Monday, November 9, 2009

A Blob of Bloggers?

The English language has a number of specialized collective nouns that refer to groups of animals. The ones with obvious derivations are commonplace; we speak regularly and unthinkingly of a herd of elephants or cattle, a bed  of oysters or clams, a flight of birds, and a yoke of oxen. 

Others are less common, but still identifiable as variations on foreign or archaic words: a clowder (“clutter”) of cats, a kindle (from German kinder  or “children”) of kittens, a covey  (from Anglo-French covee , meaning “sit upon”) of quail, a gaggle (Middle English gaggelen or “cackle”) of geese, a litter (from an old word for animal bedding) of pigs,  a school  (Old English scolu or “multitude”) of fish, and a sleuth (“animal track”) of bears. 

Some phrases are clearly descriptive of the appearance, sound, action, or quality of the animal to which they refer: a pride  of lions, a crash of rhinoceroses, a leap of leopards, a cry of hounds, a spring of teals, a cloud of gnats, a knot of toads, and a nest of vipers.  Others are more obscure and have no ready etymological explanation: a grist of bees, a brace of ducks, a cast of hawks, and a husk of hares.

But best of all are those flights of poetic fancy that, through an imaginative leap that transcends etymology, seem precisely right for the animals they are describing: an exaltation of larks, a charm of goldfinches, a muster of peacocks, and a murder of crows. 

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou believes the language needs collective nouns for people as well, and he proposes the following for your consideration, and invites your additional suggestions:

    A stanza of poets
    An appeal of lawyers
    A consultation of physicians
    A syllabus of teachers
    A scoop of journalists
    A suite of hoteliers
    An exhibition of curators
    A genome of biologists
    A swatch of interior decorators
    A sack of investment bankers
    A fist of money-lenders
    A clutch of hedge-fund managers
    A porkbarrel of legislators
    A claim of insurance executives
    A miter of bishops
    A casserole of church ladies
    A bombast of talk-show hosts
   

3 comments:

  1. How about a flounce of drag queens?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sorry, but I refuse to find ANYTHING "appealing" about lawyers. And I'm entitled to that, having slaved as a paralegal for 7 long years.
    On topic: Maybe a strategy [strategery?] of consultants?

    ReplyDelete
  3. An avid reader who frequents the links has suggested the following additions to the list of group nouns for people:

    A chisel of sculptors
    A brush of artists
    A pen of writers
    A chapter of authors
    and his favorite, of course....
    A swing of golfers

    ReplyDelete