Become a Word Detective

What I find delicious are the collective nouns that some totally different groups SHARE!. We have a ‘huddle of penguins’ AND a ‘huddle of lawyers’! There is a ‘descent of woodpeckers’, a ‘descent of lapwings’ AND a ‘descent of relatives’! There’s a ‘bevy of beauties’ and don’t ask me why or how, but also a ‘bevy of turtles’! Understandably, peacocks share their collective noun with lions, so it’s a ‘pride of peacocks’ and a ‘pride of lions’.

PESTS GALORE! The collective nouns for some pests are very appropriate. Anyone who’s entered a kitchen full of foraging ants will find an ‘army of ants’ very apt. And ‘armies of caterpillars’ can defeat poor farmers whose crops get devoured by them. Though I don’t like cockroaches, I did like their collective noun…’an intrusion of cockroaches’! Other pests have been classified as ‘a scourge of mosquitoes,’ ‘a knot of worms’ and a ‘cluster of spiders.’

ALLITERATIVE COLLECTIVE NOUNS.   The ones you’re most likely to use and enjoy, just for the joy of rolling them off your tongue are a ‘babble of barbers’, a ‘bench of bishops,’ a ‘slither of snakes,’ a ‘gaggle of geese’ (‘gaggle’ is often used on women, too) or a ‘pod of peas.’ Pod, strangely enough, is also used in ‘a pod of dolphin’ or a ‘pod of porpoises.’
BIRDS OF A FEATHER  Hunting out collective nouns can turn into a hobby. I suspect a lot of wordsmiths have made inventing them a pastime. But I’ll leave you with the most evocative and poetic ones that are somehow reserved for the birds. ‘A congress of eagles,’ a ‘stand of flamingos’ (which they share with ‘a stand of trees, quite aptly), a ‘flight of cormorants,’ a ‘bellowing of bullfinches’ and a ‘parliament of crows’! There’s also a baffling ‘a murder of crows’! Ducks, incidentally, have different collective nouns, depending on what they’re doing…in water they’re a ‘paddling of ducks’; in flight, they’re ‘a plump of ducks’ and while diving, they’re a ‘dopping of ducks’!

WORD DETECTIVES, OFF YOU GO! We do know that when a dog gives birth to pile of puppies, it’s called a litter of pups. What about when a pig or sow has babies? Find out! You have a brood of hens, so what do you call a collection of roosters? Is there a word for it? Maybe you can make one up! A prickle of hedgehogs sounds very apt, so maybe that could give you ideas to invent a term for a group of rhinoceroses.

 What, for instance would be the term for a collection of mothers, waiting outside a school gate to pick up their kids? A collection of grandfathers, sunning themselves in the park? Go on, start snooping around…if you can’t find a word, MAKE ONE UP! Even one for a collection of word detectives, while you’re at it!

Kavitha Mandana

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