N is for nouns of multitude.
Most indigenous societies used only three number words; one, two, and many. And then they used special expressions to indicate quantities of things. Many of the nouns of multitude we currently use originated in the Middle Ages.
I’m not exactly sure why I find this so fascinating, but I do, and apparently have for quite some time. I recently found an old journal where I had begun a list of these collective nouns. My mind boggles at where some of these came from:
- an exaltation of larks
- a murmuration of starlings
- an ostentation of peacocks
- a sneak of weasels
- a generation of vipers
- a cornucopia of slugs
- a smack of jellyfish
My mind also delights in what clearly is an amusing game of cleverness:
- a prickle of hedgehogs
- a reflection of narcissists
- a flourish of blossoms
- a jam of tarts
- an expectation of midwives
- a pencil of lines
- a clutch of mechanics
- a string of violinists
I trust our friend Fool enjoys this game as well. I daresay we may perhaps be dealing with a folly of fools.
The other night I was sitting in circle with a group of friends and we were trying to think of the collective noun for butterflies (rabble, or my preference kaleidoscope). I was sitting there simply basking in the joy of being gathered with my friends, and thinking about an earlier conversation that evening about how there were definitely some regional differences in our pronunciations of various words. To my ears it sounds like some southern speakers add extra vowels to words, and to some my Midwestern accent is a no-nonsense speeding over parts. So I laughed when it occurred to me sitting there that perhaps we were a bucket of pals, knowing full well that pal would be pronounced differently by each one of us. And that in itself made me laugh even more.
I find nouns of multitude delightful, but on a more serious note as observed by Isidore of Seville (c.600 AD)
“Take from all things their numbers, and all shall perish.”
That makes me want to celebrate every kaleidoscope of butterflies, every romp of otters, and every sagacity of owls, and do my best to make sure they’re around for future generations to enjoy.
What about you? Have a favorite noun of multitude? Do tell – you know I love to hear.
Hi Deborah .. I’ve always been fascinated by those sorts of words too ..
I love a parliament of owls
A murder of Crows …
They are all brilliant and so much fun – someone/s!! very clever thought these up ..
a prickle of hedgehogs
A pencil of Lines …
brilliant to see .. Cheers Hilary
I love word play and those clever multitudes simply delight me.
pride of lions, maze of hedges, charm of finches, mischief of mice – yeah, I like these…
Evalina, This and that…
They are fun aren’t they?
What wonderful observations. Must be why I’m a writer rather than a mathematician. Lovely!
LOL – indeed Eve. And thanks for stopping by to say hello – I appreciate it.
Lovely Deborah thank you. Bucket of pals! very funny!
Crash of rhino, zither of zebra ..
Oooh – zither of zebras – that’s fabulous!
It’s officially the second half of A to Z. Time to catch that second wind, rest up on Sunday, then it’s that mad dash toward the finish line!
A to Z Cohost
N is for Numerology
Thanks for stopping by Stephen.
How about a plethora of poppies? Love the kaleidoscope of butterflies. I can just picture that.
I do love poppies and a plethora of them sounds fabulous.
As a master gardener landscaper….I cringe at the concept of a cornucopia of slugs 🙂 but love an exaltation of larks. Though nothing coming to play back with.
The cornucopia sounds amusing on paper but I wouldn’t care to have to meet them in my garden either.
I was just googling collective nouns of birds: paddling of ducks, gallon of petrels, herd of cowbirds, scooter of scoters, extinction of dodos. Seems to be a fun pastime in all sorts of fields. I did always find murder of crows somewhat fascinating.
I have to say I certainly delight in it. I find the murder of crows interesting as well; and also that it’s an unkindness of ravens. Certainly not names I’d choose for my beloved corvoids. 🙂
Oh my. I am grateful to be part of your “bucket of pals” reading and commenting. I join you in this attraction to words that describe groups of animals.
First, an exaltation of larks! Deborah, I’m waking to lark now, an exalted melody but not an exultation. I think it’s a couple with a nest.
My choice? An embarrassment of pandas. (Woo woo to that viral video of the baby panda sneezing and scaring mama bear.)
Oh how fabulous to have larks around to enjoy Susan! And I laugh every time I think about an embarrassment of pandas. Wherever do some of these names come from? That sneezing baby panda was hilarious. I never would have guessed such a little one could be so loud.