I am not sure who created them, but one of the best things about the English language is collective nouns. I came upon a few that really blew my mind whilst my kids were studying for their English exam. These gems are sadly hidden away in dictionaries and text books. Jewels like a loveliness of ladybirds and a walk of snails.
I say sad, because I don’t hear a lot of people using them, but we should. They are so damn descriptive and funny. The guys who are credited with their use are probably succesful stand-up comedians or great screenwriters today. I decided to list the ones that really tickled my creative juices and as a South African I am totally biased towards the ones used for animals.
- A claque of hired applauders – Not sure why anyone would ever need to hire applauders? Must be a sad day. Wait scrap that. For potty training! When baby makes a poo-poo for the first time it causes for a celebration and sometimes mom and dad are just not enough. This noun clearly describe the sound that this specific group of people would make.
- A haggle of vendors – If you have ever visited a sooq in a Middle Eastern country trying to buy a carpet then you would appreciate this noun even more. A sooq is a market place where three thousand shops will be selling a total selection of thirty items. Each vendor will try to persuade you that they can give you the deal of the century.
- A chowder of cats – Can you not just see it? An old lady with a grey bun on the head, some oily shocks of hair clinging to the side of her face, knitting in a dusty old lounge chair with a strong scent of cat-piss hanging in the room. And then all the cats, licking and lying and maauwing and just…Chowdering. Ughh.
- A leap of leopards – These gracious animals are known for hanging their kill in trees to avoid other scavengers from stealing it. They grab the dead animal in their jaws and climb a tree by leaping from branch to branch. Ever see a leopard run? Same effect. Awesome word.
- A cackle of Hyenas – “Mufasa!” “Ooo, say it again!” “Mufasa!” Probably one of the best lines from the Lion King. The movie is accurate in portraying these animals as conniving, giggling cowards. But if you ever hear them laughing in real life the cackle will sent shivers down your spine.
- A mob of kangaroos – I am not sure why wallabies are always portrayed with boxing gloves, but this image of kangaroo’s leading the animal underworld is hysterical.
- A paddling of ducks – Oh come on. This one is so accurate. A family of ducks crossing the road mom in front, chicks following in a row, the awkward walk… This could also be very effective in describing a group of walking, expecting mothers in their third trimester.
- A shush of librarians – Shuuuush. Quiet. No comment required. Who knew?
- A flutter of butterflies – In spring a type of white moth flies in their hundreds across the grasslands at the edge of our town. I don’t know why but it is a spectacular sight. I was always looking for an accurate description for these hundreds of butterflies, guess I can stop looking now.
- An intrusion of cockroaches – Everyone and anyone who has ever came across these hated insects will probably agree that one is more than enough to call it an intrusion. Unless your name is Wall-E.
- A float of crocodiles – You’re a Springbok. It’s hot under the African sun. There is a river, with cool water rushing by. It looks refreshing and your thirst drive you closer. You inch forward, put your head down…then jump back in a massive leap when you see the beady little eyes lurking in the water, hiding the massive floating, killing machine. And you tell your kids how close you came to becoming a happy meal.
- A business of flies – Ever seen brokers selling and buying shares on Wall street? Ever seen flies buzzing over a dead animal? Same thing.
- A tower of giraffes – These guys stand 5 to 6 metres high, no other word would suffice. (16-20 feet for my American readers!)
- A dazzle of zebras – Once went on a Safari and the guide was trying to count a few zebra’s standing on one side. He was explaining how their stripes creates confusion for predators; as it is difficult to distinguish a specific animal in a group of zebras. So the guide was counting five animals, which immediately dispersed on queue. They turned out to be only three. It was hilarious, so let’s just say they dazzled him as well.
- A parliament of owls – Always portrayed as birds of wisdom in most folk tales. Being the wise old owl, so why anyone would compare them with a bunch of politicians is beyond me. I mean these birds are WISE, for goodness sake!
- A rumba of rattlesnakes – This one gives new meaning to the Latin-American dance form. Although I have seen some of these sleezebags doing the Rumba. All sleaked-back hair, open shirts, bushy chest hair, massive gold chain dangling and with way to much movement in the hip area to be called a guy. You may replace sleezebag with snake in this passage.
- A crash of rhino’s – Never seen more than three of four together but I do know that the result will be crashing if a few dozen decide it is time to make like a tree…and leave.
- A pride of Peacocks – Yes the males of most animal species are always the better looking gender. As it is also true for humans, I think this specific term also describes quite accurately, a group of urinating men.
Could not end without acknowledging a stand of flamingoes and a bloat of hippo’s.