Thursday, October 26, 2017

Collective nouns are one of the most endearing eccentricities to emerge from the English language. Dating back to the fifteenth century, the earliest records of collective noun usage probably extended to animals and birds mostly. They reveal both obvious and peculiar associations with the groups they classify. Little has changed since then except that over time, more collective nouns have been added to the English lexicon, growing exponentially to classify practically anything.

What lurks behind the odd collective labels?

Whether from the Middle Ages or more modern times, some appropriately derive from relatable physical or behavioural characteristics, such as a colony of bats, a murmuration of starlings or a prickle of porcupines. Others such as a murder of cows require a rack-like stretch of the imagination to fathom the source of inspiration.

At some point in their lives, most animals, even the most solitary come together to mate or to protect themselves against predators. This is why “birds of a feather (literally) flock together”. When this clustering happens, humans give them bizarre names, which are seldom referenced by scientists. Nonetheless, the sometimes odd and often humorous collective labels say something about humanity’s affinity for nature and our fondness for using language creatively.

Out on an African Safari you’re likely to come across an array of animals, birds and even plants with collective nouns to describe them. These include everything from knots, cackles, skulks and barrels to leaps, whoops, romps and confusions.

Animals
Ape - Shrewdness (or troop) of apes
Aardvark - Armoury of aardvarks
Baboon - Flange (or troop) of baboons
Bat - Cauldron (colony or cloud) of bats
Buffalo - Obstinancy (herd, troop or gang) of buffalo
Cheetahs - Coalition of cheetahs
Cobra - Quiver of cobras
Crocodile - Float (or bask) of crocodiles
Elephants - Memory (or herd) of elephants
Fox - Skulk (lease, earth, lead or troop) of foxes
Frogs - Knot of frogs
Giraffe - Journey of giraffe (if moving)
Giraffe - Tower of giraffe (if standing still)
Gorilla - Band (whoop or troop) of gorillas
Hippo - Bloat (or pod) of hippos
Hyena - Cackle (clan or sisterhood) of hyenas
Leopard - Leap of leopards
Lizard - Lounge of lizards
Lion - Pride (sault or troop) of lions
Monkey - A barrel of monkeys
Mongoose - Business of mongooses
Otter - Romp of otters
Porcupine - Prickle of porcupines
Rhinoceros - Crash of rhinoceros
Shark - Shiver (school or shoal) of sharks
Whales - A pod (gam or herd) of whales
Wildebeest - Confusion of wildebeest
Zebra - Dazzle (crossing, cohort or herd) of zebra

Birds

Cormorants - Gulp of cormorants
Eagle - Convocation (or aerie) of eagles
Guinea fowl - Confusion of guinea fowl
Gulls - Screech (or colony) of gulls
Heron - Siege of herons
Flamingoes - Flamboyance of flamingoes
Lark - Exultation (or ascension) of larks
Magpie - Tiding (gulp, murder or charm) of magpies
Owl - Parliament of owls
Oxpecker - Fling of oxpeckers
Peacocks - Muster (ostentation or pride) of peacocks
Pelican - Pod of pelicans
Stork - Mustering of storks
Southern Black Tit - Cleavage of Southern Black Tits
Vulture - A wake of vultures
Woodpecker - A descent of woodpeckers


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