You know that a flock of sheep huddled together is a flock, a group of antelopes galloping together a flock, a group of fish swimming together a school and a crowd of bees buzzing together a swarm. But have you ever heard of a rhino crash, a cat clowder, a kindle of kittens, a whale kid or a frog knot?
Most of these collective names evolved in the Middle Ages, when the sophisticated art of hunting demanded an equally sophisticated vocabulary for naming objects of the hunt. Ever since God commanded Adam to name all the creatures that run, fly, swim, crawl, and dig above, on, and under the earth, we humans have been relentless in bringing these beasts and birds together in clusters.
Let’s start with the group names for 30 different animals:
a bundle of turtles, a barren of mules, a bloat of hippos, a ferret business, a caravan of camels
a group of badgers, a coalition of cheetahs, a cover of coots, a cowardice of cursed, a dazzling zebra
a procession of squirrels, a herd of cows, a work of moles, a jump of leopards, a memory of elephants
the mischief of a mouse, the obstinacy of a buffalo, the allure of donkeys, a pack of seals, the pride of lions
a road of wolves, an insight of monkeys, a singular of wild boars, a skunk of foxes, a detective of bears
a pig sounder, a giraffe tower, a goat trip, a herd of monkeys, a maze of rabbits
Here is now a flight of 30 bird assemblages, a list of groupies that are really for birds:
a troop of hawks, a charm of finches, a congregation of plovers, a summons of eagles, a flock of quails
a descent of peaks, an exaltation of larks, a flood of mallards, a flock of geese, a group of penguins
a murder of crows, a murmur of starlings, a gathering of storks, a nye of pheasants, an ostentation of peacocks
a paddle of ducks, a pandemonium of parrots, a parliament of owls, a pity of doves, a plump of waterfowl
a chevron of turkeys, a rebuke of jays, a seat of herons, a stand of flamingos, a short story of magpies
an omnipresence of sparrows, a wickedness of crows, a wake of buzzards, a watch of nightingales, a wedge of swans (while flying in V)
For fun, you can create your own collective names for people, animals and / or fantastic creatures – a dermatologist rash, a group of orthodontists, a company of Trekkies, a horde of miser, a *** censors, a bunch of sword swallowers (pun intended?), a sting of porcupines, a constellation of starfish, a plume of dragons, a utopia of unicorns.
Email me your original submissions via email@example.com. (Don’t forget the h in the middle of my name.) The deadline is Saturday July 17th. I’ll publish the winners in my July 24 post.
DEAR RICHARD: It was a question about “Jeopardy!” that I saw as a child many years ago: an eight letter word with a single vowel! I loved that clue and that word and never forgot that the answer is: what is force? —Deborah Lessard, Spring Valley
In fact, there is a longer word: strengths, as in “strengths and weaknesses”.
DEAR RICHARD: What nine letter word in the English language is always a word when eight letters are deleted one by one? —Herb Kelsey, El Cajon
Here are two nine-letter words that can be deleted anywhere while keeping the letter order intact:
SPARKLING SPARKLING SPRIG PRIG PIG PI I
START START STRING STRING STING SING SIN IN I
But from the reactivation of 12 letters, we can extract any letter, one at a time, and then successively form smaller anagrams, until only one letter remains:
REACTIVATION RATIOCINATE COMPLEX REACTIVATION INTERACTING SUSTAINABILITY IRRECATION RATE ART TO A