The Weird World Of Collective Nouns
The English language is often weird. Investigate and enrich your vocabulary with collective nouns. The examples are interesting and will make you laugh
One Sunday afternoon you're out driving in the country with the kids and they spot seven or eight crows lined up along a sagging fence. "Hey, mom," your daughter Katie shouts, "look at that bunch of crows!"
Her words trigger something in your memory, a lesson Miss Harris taught in grade school English grammer class. "It's a 'flock' of crows, sweetie, not a 'bunch'. The dandelions you picked for me yesterday and that you made into a wreath are called a 'bunch'. Do you understand?"
"I guess so," Katie replies. But as you glance in the rear view mirror your daughter looks confused. And suddenly, so are you. That's the English language for you. Constantly confusing!
As you keep driving, you're still trying to sort it out -- it's a 'bunch' of flowers, isn't it? Or is it called a 'posy'? Or maybe it was a 'bouquet'? And what about those crows? Where they a 'flock', or not? Now you're really confused!
Actually, all those words describing that 'bunch' of flowers, or, more accurately, a grouping of two or more objects, inanimate or not, are correct. It's a 'bouquet', 'posy' or even a 'garland' of flowers, if you're referring to that handful of dandelions Katie wove into a pretty wreath for her mother.
There's a whole sub-culture of these types of words. Some of them make perfect sense, while others are very strange indeed! Welcome to the world of collective nouns.
Let's look at a few more examples in the category of inanimate objects. Some of these words will be familiar, others will seem very odd: a 'book' of matches, a 'card' of wool, a 'cluster' of diamonds, a 'flat' of bricks, a 'franchise' of restaurants, a 'head' of steam, a 'graveyard' of tombs, a 'wardrobe' of clothing, a 'yard' of gravel, a 'paper' of pins. Then there's a few really strange ones: a 'quire' of paper, a 'shag' of tobacco, an 'omnibus' of stories, a 'brace' of pistols.
Certainly food and drink can't be overlooked. Take a moment to digest these: a 'peck' of peppers, a 'shaker' of pepper, a 'stalk' of bananas, a 'toby' of ale, a 'prunus' of plums, a 'keg' or 'stein' of beer, a 'chub' of pepperoni (eat too much of it and you will get chubby!), a 'clutch' of eggs, a 'pyrus' of apples. Bet you'll never look at your dinner quite the same way again!
The award for "weirdest" examples of collective nouns goes to those found in the great animal kingdom. Here's just a few: a 'brace' of ducks or hares, a 'business' of ferrets, a 'clutter' of cats, a 'convocation' of eagles, a 'deceit' of lapwings (what the heck's a lapwing?), a 'drift' of swans, a 'gang' of elk (and we thought gangs only happened in big cities), a 'knot' of toads, a 'murmuration' of starlings, a 'rafter' of turkeys, a 'skulk' of foxes (well, seems appropriate), a 'tribe' of goats, and a 'watch' of nightingales.
So there you are, a small but interesting sampling of some of the stranger words and phrasese in the English language. As it continues to grow and evolve, there will certainly be more to add to this list.
Oh, and by the way -- those beady-eyed crows sitting back on that fence -- they're called 'a murder of crows'.