More on collective nouns

To: bird <>
Subject: More on collective nouns
From: brian fleming <>
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 2006 17:37:20 +1100
The use of collective nouns for different creatures dates back to the middle Ages - possibly the use of a very elaborate vocabulary was to stress the fact that hunting and hawking were noble pursuits, and you had to learn the whole vocabulary from an early age. The classic list of collectives is attributed to Dame Juliana Berners, said to have been a nun whose Book of St Albans was printed in 1486, probably circulated in MS well before that. As far as I know, she is the souce for the 'gaggle of geese' and many others still in circulation to some extent. The spelling of the original leaves interpretation open on some of them. She gives what seems to be a 'desert of lapwings' but it is probably in modern spelling 'a deceit of lapwings' (it's so hard to find the nest with the parents distracting by broken-wing and other tricks). My version is in a reprint of recipes and other material published as 'Stere hit well" from a MS in the Pepysian Library, Cambridge (1972). You can find quite as much as you want to know (if not more) about collective nouns including many modern ones on the internet. It should of course include 'a singular of a phoenix.'
  Anthea Fleming
   Ivanhoe (Vic)



That is not quite true. Though most of the collective nouns are, as you say, not words that are, or were, in actual use, but rather words that appeared in some literary work or were invented for the purpose, there are more than the two words you ascribe. For example, it is certainly not unheard of to talk about a covey of quail or a raft of ducks, at least here in the States. I am sure there are a few others. Regards, Eric Jeffrey
Falls Church, VA
In a message dated 2/19/2006 9:00:40 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, writes:

    There have been various threads on Birding-aus over the years
    about collective nouns for groups of different types of birds, eg
    a 'murder' of crows.

    Birding-aus subscribers should realise that the invention of
    collective nouns appropriate to different kinds of birds is simply
    a literary parlour game of Victorian vintage, and does not reflect
    actual usage either now, or at some time in the past.

    The only collective nouns to use for groups of birds are:

    English: a flock of X
    American English: a bunch of X (or in the case of a large flock 'a
    whole bunch of X')

Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message:
'unsubscribe birding-aus' (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU