A Cacophony of Collective Nouns

A pride of lions. A school of fish. A flamboyance of flamingos — yep.

I had a bee in my bonnet today (not a hive of them, mind you) about collective nouns. I love them. They’re poetic, they’re nonsensical, they’re fun to think about.

A shrewdness of apes. A parliament of owls or — alternatively, if you’re feeling more sinister than magisterial — a looming of them. A prickle (!) of hedgehogs (say hiya to my son, Hedgewig).

I can’t tell you why I’ve been thinking about collective nouns. I’ve been drowning in words lately, for all numbers of reasons, and so it was only a matter of time before I dove into collective nouns. According to this oldish article via Medium, there’s not really an answer as to where they come from, collective nouns just… are. Which is frustratingly vague! Apparently, there’s a paradox between actual popular usage and assumed common usage — aka, a text claims the thing is a thing, so it is — between how these things come to be. Linguists don’t quite know how to ascertain the origin, or if the thing — say, a murder of crows or a destruction of wild cats — will continue to be that thing down the line. It’s all poetry and chaos.

If you’re into other collective nouns, this Guardian piece features a bit of history behind some fun ones.

A zeal of zebras. A raft of otters. A cackle of hyenas. A bloat of hippos.

I could go on.

Photo by Wade Lambert on Unsplash

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