A Cover of Coots
Yesterday’s writing group was incredibly fun, thanks to Ralph Cornish presenting an exploration of collective nouns. We’re all familiar with at least a few collective nouns that we use in regular speech: a hill of beans, a mountain of debt, a litter of pups. But there are so many more fun and interesting collective nouns. The earliest list dates from around 1450.
For our group writing exercise, Ralph wrote out a selection of collective nouns and let us pick one from a bowl. We then wrote about our selection for 15 minutes. I grabbed A Transparency of Toupees. That made me so happy.
Ralph picked his selections from a fun, beautifully illustrated book, An Exaltation of Larks: The Ultimate Edition by James Lipton.
Mr. Lipton sorts the terms of venery (term for hunting game) into six families:
1. Onomatopoeia – a gaggle of geese, a murmuration of starlings
2. Characteristic – a leap of leopards, a skulk of foxes
3. Appearance – a knot of toads, a parliament of owls
4. Habitat – a shoal of bass, a nest of rabbits
5. Comment – richness of martens, a cowardice of curs
6. Error (resulting from an incorrect transcription by a scribe or printer, faithfully preserved in the corrupted form by consequent compilers) – a school of fish, originally shoal
The book contains more than a thousand terms. Here are some of my favorite:
An ingratitude of children
An untruth of summoners
A rhapsody of blues
A wince of dentists
A business of flies
A smack of jellyfish
A labor of moles
An illusion of painters
A worship of writers
A conjunction of grammarians
A browse of readers
Here’s hoping we all find instance to use colorful terms of venery in our writing.
What’s your favorite collective noun?