An absurdity of animal plurals

Here’s yet another list of animal congregations, as in the query What Do You Call a Group Of…..? What I want to know is, who makes this stuff up? I mean, really, was there ever a time when people found it useful and pertinent to refer to an ostentation of peacocks? I don’t believe it.

Some people love lists like this. They will inhale sharply if you purpose to say “a bunch” of kangaroos rather than the more appropriate “mob” of same. These people will correct your grammar and then pointedly observe that they completed their taxes before Valentine’s Day this year. Last year too, in fact. Haven’t you? Of course you have.

People like this constitute a smarm of smarty-pants. Or perhaps a tedium of busy-bodies.

My theory is that some clown in the 18th century penned the phrase “exaltation of larks” and once the door was propped open, every frustrated writer with an axe to grind rushed in and tacked up his own absurd plurality. The more ridiculous the better! No one will question you! Here are some more supposedly genuine pluralities. A parliament of owls. A clowder of cats. A singular of pigs. Make up one yourself and swear that you saw it in Spenser’s Faerie Queen: A coagulation of kittens. An effluvium of eels. A lot of used car salesmen.

By the way, the list refers to an unkindness of ravens. I believe proper term is a murder of ravens. Sniff sniff.

10 thoughts on “An absurdity of animal plurals”

  1. I’d always thought it was a murder of crows, but the same could apply to ravens. Although, knowing those grammar freaks, they’d probably try to make the plural for ravens and crows different.

    Although, remember that this is nothing compared to Asian languages. While only a select few grammar nazis will wince if you forget to say an exuberance of gazelles, Chinese and Japanese both have the lovely invention of the counter word. In english you have to say “1 cat, 2 cats”. In Japanese and Chinese, you have to use the counter word for small, four-legged animals, which in Japanese is “hiki”. So, you’d have to say “1 hiki cat, 2 hiki cats”, otherwise the sentence is not grammatically correct. It’s more fun than getting your teeth hammered!

  2. Nope. As far as corvids go:

    a murder of crows
    a building of rooks or occasionally a parliament of rooks
    an unkindness of ravens
    a tidings of magpies

    This is from the exceedingly well researched *An Exaltation of Larks* by James Lipton.

  3. I would also like to mention that I showed this to my friends, and being the group of Tolkien-loving rock stars that we are, we tried to decide what a group of geeks would be called. The current favorite vote is “a mistake of geeks”.

  4. How about a “gangle of geeks”? Then we would have a pontificate of Speech and Debate teams, a larding of comics fanboys, an overdose of goths, and so on.

  5. Alright, but if you’re going to come up with the plural for computer programmers, make sure that the plural is some sort of computer science humor that no one gets.

  6. It’s a murder of crows, a scream of h’os, a gaggle of geese, pride of lions, and a mob of sheep! How can they just change things! Oh and it’s a square of geeks.

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