I remember years ago sitting in a pub quiz in London, and being asked what the collective nouns were for various types of birds….
My memory is always a bit shaky. But one of those nouns I always remember is a murmuration of starlings.
What a colourful and imaginative way to describe the quiet and magical way starlings gather and fly together.
Collective nouns really show the true richness, imagination and playfulness of the English Language.
Nowadays, we rarely get the chance to use these terms. But some of them really are marvellous: A parliament of owls, a murder of crows and a convocation of eagles are just some of my favourites.
Many of the terms describe animals. They have been passed down from the middle ages and stem from terms of venery, an old word for hunting. No doubt, many of these terms were considered humorous and light-hearted. Their sense of whimsy has stood the test of time as many live on today.
For anyone interested, there’s a new book about collective nouns. Written by Chloe Rhodes, An Unkindness of Ravens: A Book of Collective Nouns (published by Michael O’Mara, RRP £9.99) explores the origins of many collective nouns.
A damning of jurors, a murder of crows and a superfluity of nuns are just some of the imaginative and colourful terms explored.
For those interested there’s a review of this book in the Review section of Saturday’s Guardian.
It gets me wondering whether there will be a renaissance of collective nouns, with new ones being coined, fit for the twenty-first century.
A deceit of politicians
A screening of web developers
A scheming of accountants
And as for copywriters and editors, how about:
A corrective of editors
An articulation of copywriters.
Does anyone else have any ideas?