The Art of the Collective Noun

Miss M and I are avid television quiz watchers. We pitch ourselves against the television contestants, with quiet competition between the two of us. She shines on the arts and literature subjects. I have distinct superiority when it comes to cars, building, and science.

We’re both not too bad on geography and rubbish on contemporary pop culture.

If the ITV were to suddenly ring me up and ask me to audition to become a Chaser, there’s a few standard things I would try to bone up on – the name of every country’s capital and the colours on their flags; the size of the planets and what their moons are called; everything about the periodic table; and the mysterious collection of words called Collective Nouns.

Question: The collective nouns for crows is:

A:  A sord
B:  A convocation
C:  A murder

Answer C – A murder. Incidentally, a sord apparenlty refers to mallards, and a convocation to eagles.

Animal groupings are the most widely known collective nouns, many of whch have been in existence for several centuries – a herd of cows, a flock of sheep, a swarm of bees

But why? And who makes them up? Where do they come from?

Well according to Oxford Dictionaries, in English, no-one. Which I translate to mean anyone can. Including me. And you.

More aptly coined use can surely make our speech and writing better, more elegant and more humourous.

I believe that specific groups of people and things lag well behind animal collective nouns.  As such I offer the following for people in professional occupations. (My apologies if these are already known to some.)

  • A paperwork of accountants
  • A snore of anaesthetists
  • A diagnosis of doctors
  • A collapse of structural engineers
  • A writ of lawyers
  • A wig of judges
  • A drill of dentists
  • A confusion of urban designers
  • A jealousy of architects

Turning to things, automobiles for instance, collective nouns could be:

  • A fart of Harley Davidsons
  • A snort of Ferraris
  • A whisper of Nissan Leafs
  • An orchestra of Maseratis

I invite readers to add to these lists and offer new collective nouns for particular people and things, for us to enjoy.

Go on. Its fun!

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