Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Do you use collective nouns?

Today’s post is from Rambler5319 and maybe we will have all learned something by the time we finish reading it. I know I did! Enjoy…


I was wondering recently just how useful (or not) these special terms are. You know the kind of thing I mean: a flock of sheep, a herd of cows, a bouquet of flowers, a fleet of ships, a pack of wolves and so on. Apart from the very common ones of which these are a few I don’t think many people even bother with them. Think of some of these words for collections of various things/animals: a bench of bishops, a covey of grouse, a troop (also a pride) of lions, a shock of wheat, a cast of hawks. How many of those did you know? And if you did know them when was the last time you used them. Supposing you saw 5 or 6 hawks perched on a tree or building, would you say, “Look at that cast of hawks”? I don’t think so. I’m all for people knowing the right words to use  and using them but how many of your friends would know what you were talking about if they heard you use the expression, “a cast of hawks”; more likely you’d say, “Look at all those hawks” or “group of hawks” (providing of course you knew they were hawks!).

Before we go any further how about a quick test? Can you match the collective term in the first column with the noun (person/animal/thing) in the second? (Answers at the end)

1. Skein                Machine guns

2. Wisp                 Pheasants

3. Gang                 Silk

4. Nest                  Snipe

5. Kindle               Peacocks

6. Hand                 Bananas

7. Coffle               Kittens

8. Muster            Slaves

9. Rope                 Pearls

10. Nide               Elk

Hands up if you’ve used any recently? (Not me anyway!)

I wonder if it makes a difference which country you are in. Do those in the US, Canada or the rest of world use different terms for groups of things? What do French/German/Dutch folks use? And do they make more use of the terms than we do with our English versions. We’ll investigate a few below.

I looked up a couple that have multiple collective terms. If I said bees you’d probably say “swarm” for the collective term (or maybe “hive”). How many of you have ever heard of ‘drift’, ‘erst’ or ‘grist’ for describing a large number of bees? Again, not me.

The derivation of swarm in English does seem to come from a very old Germanic word which developed into schwarm in modern German, swerm in Dutch, svärm in Swedish, svaerm in Danish. Ultimately it may have come from as far back as Latin (sussurus meaning ‘hum’) & Sanskrit (svdrati meaning ‘it hums’).

Many cattle are normally as a ‘herd’. Once again this word comes from a Germanic root – herde (Swedish hjord). For pack of wolves the word pack yet again comes from early German form pak.

Geese have 6 terms for a collection of them but are split as to where & how you see them: 2 are for seeing them on land (flock, gaggle), 3 are for seeing them in flight (skein, team, wedge) & 1 is for when you see them in flight but they’re flying close together (plump). I wonder if anyone ever distinguishes them. For me they’re a flock of geese wherever they are and whatever they’re doing!

I really do wonder why we have 10 words for a collection of sheep. I’d say flock and wouldn’t feel it necessary to go any further. However the other nine are: down, drift, drove, herd, hurtle, meinie, mob, parcel, trip. Any the wiser? “I was walking across the valley when I saw a meinie of sheep in the next field” is not a sentence I’d use (or you I guess).

Believe it or not swans come top of the league table for the most collective terms: there are 12, look them up if you’re really interested.

Birds seem to get the more bizarre although there’s probably a reason behind them somewhere in history. Check these out and see if you know any of them (a mixture of English & US origins):

A dissimulation of birds, a bellowing of bullfinches, a wake of buzzards, a chattering of choughs, a gulp of cormorants, a murder of crows, a herd of curlews, a piteousness of doves, a fling of dunlins, a convocation of eagles, a mob of emus, a charm of finches, a flight of goshawks, a covey of grouse, a kettle of hawks, a deceit of lapwings, an exaltation of larks, a plump of moorhens, a company of parrots, a head of pheasants, an unkindness of ravens, a mustering of storks, a dole of turtle doves, a trip of wigeons, a fall of woodcocks, a descent of woodpeckers, a herd of wrens.

I reckon I could use ‘flock’ for all of them and no-one would notice anything wrong. However if I used the correct term most people would guess what I meant but would never have heard the term used that way before. Are you really going to point out to your children on a journey “an unkindness of ravens over there”? I don’t think so!

What is even worse for us in England is, because we don’t have a kind of authority which says what is the right or wrong term in any given situation, there seems to be little uniformity. I heard an item on a radio prog the other day and the expert on that said collective nouns actually only come about through common usage. What this means is that if enough people use a collective term it will be adopted but not if they don’t; so an existing word but with a made-up (by common usage) meaning. Interesting.

How about some modern ones? What would you use for a collection of say bloggers? (Could they be a gang, a posting or a cloud maybe?) Can you think of a more appropriate one? The collective term for computers could be network but that implies they’re connected together which they may not be. What about computer chips? Could you have a pan of them (haha), a board of them or a table of them? What do you reckon for a collection of hard drives?

So there we are. Collective nouns come about because people use them and we don’t seem to invent them for the modern stuff or at least we don’t hear consistent use of any particular one.

(And bizarrely up to the last full stop I’d done 1066 words and you know what happened in 1066. Well I wonder if we’ve conquered the subject or not? Guess I’ll need to ask Norman!)

And just to completely finish here are the quiz answers:

1. Skein                Silk

2. Wisp                 Snipe

3. Gang                 Elk

4. Nest                  Machine guns (what’s that all about? A nest of machine guns)

5. Kindle               Kittens

6. Hand                 Bananas

7. Coffle               Slaves

8. Muster            Peacocks

9. Rope                 Pearls

10. Nide               Pheasants

Did you spot No.6? Yep I put the right answer in the quiz section to see if you might change it.

Things in the mist

Um. Maybe I’m on the train to Brighton and I forgot to write a post.

Yeh. Maybe that happened.

So here are some photos I took of things in the mist on the way to work the other morning.

Cows in the mist

Egyptian geese in the mist

Ducks in the mist
A person in the mist

A horse in the mist

And now, for no other reason than I’m trying to make up for my forgetfulness by plying you with pictures, here is a picture of me with a bucket on my head.

X is for…

X MARKS THE SPOT. (From Indiana Jones, although I think the quote is “X never marks the spot”. It’s a very vague connection but I’m a bit like Indiana Jones in this post, hence the quote.)

And so to my last day in Italy… sniffle sniffle.

Two days previously, we had tried to visit the amphitheatre in Pozzuoli and it had been closed but we really wanted to see it. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we set out again, hoping it would be second time lucky.

And it was! Woop woop! It was so quiet. Apart from a group of school children when we first entered, we saw no other people while we there. And it was amazing. We were allowed under the stage and into all the corridors once used by the gladiators to enter the stage from underneath through trap doors.





The cut out sections in the second floor up were used to keep cages with animals in to be released onto the stage too.

After a little while, we found a section where the corridors and stairways were accessible, although they were blocked off elsewhere. It was dark and cold and silent and I felt like I was an archaeologist, discovering it all for the first time. The Indiana Jones of the Roman world, if you will. Minus the baddies.




By the time, we came up by the stage and seating area, it became clear that the section downstairs had never meant to be left open. It was too quiet, too secretive. But we were in by then and it was like a heady mix of discovery and disobedience. Being so quiet, there was no-one to tell us off so we kept exploring.


We found rooms under the seating area where statues and other bits and pieces had been stored during excavations.




Eventually, creeping about amongst all these amazing discoveries, we suddenly emerged into sunlight and were in the seating area.



(I’m cheering an imaginary gladiator, in case you were wondering.)

After all this merriment, we were on a high and, even though we only had a few hours til we needed to be back in Naples to check out of our hotel, we went on a search for the seafront and some coffee. It took us far longer than we realised it would and by the time we got there, we barely had time to sit down before we had to start trekking back up the hill to find the station.

We asked directions at a roundabout and sped off in the direction we were told.

Now, one of two things must have happened here.

1. We were told the wrong direction.
2. We didn’t understand the directions properly.

As we walked down the road, it suddenly became really countrified. We were surrounded by greenery, there was no sound of traffic, only birds singing and we seemed to be walking out of town, not towards it. After fifteen minutes, we admitted defeat and turned back but the diversion had added half an hour on. We now had forty minutes to find the station, get a train back to Naples, get back from the station to our hotel, grab our bags and check out! We were up against it.

We ended up doing it in 43 minutes and burst through the door to reception, panting and apologising and explaining that we had been lost in Pozzuoli and we’re really sorry! Thankfully, they were horrified enough by our sweaty faces and profuse apologies that they gave us an extra hour on the room without charging.

We spent our last few hours after checking out, wandering around a nearby castle and taking photos looking over to Vesuvius…


…before getting a taxi to the airport where, annoyingly enough, there was a problem with our plane and they had to fly a new one out from London, which meant we took off at 22.20 instead of 19.35. Airports are boring when you’ve just had three hours added onto your departure time!

Anyway, we got home without any more hiccups and have spent the last two days lying around letting our stomachs recover from the carb-and-icecream-onslaught that is Italian food! Mmmm….

The wisdom of children

Molly on rabbits:
“I like wibbits. I want a wibbit. And I tarry it. And tuddle it. And tiss it.”

Molly on hippos:
“I don’t like hippos.”

Molly on frogs:
“I don’t like froggies. I like wibbits.”

Molly on midday cuddles:
“It’s not tuddles time. It’s playing time.”

Molly on planes:
“A lane, a lane! I’ve got a lane at home”

Molly on swimming:
“I got doddles!” (goggles)

Ella on blackbirds:
“O, a blackbird! I’ve always wanted to see a blackbird!”

Ella on the lovely new book she was given as a present:
“O no. I don’t think there’s room on my bookshelf for this.”

Ella on her punishment after being naughty one day:
“Daddy, I think I should only have one book before bed, not two. Cause I’ve been very naughty today.”

Ella on the stars:
“O, look! A constellation. Look, the archer!” (She’s five, by the way.)

Ella on her best attributes:
“I’m the funniest girl in the class.”

Ella’s first joke:
“What sheep eats a flower? A strawberry!” (Don’t ask.)

Ella on history:
“Before the dinosaurs, there were cavemen and caveladies.”

Ella on her romantic prospects:
“When I grow up, I’m going to marry Adam. When I’m 13.”

The comedy dog

When my friend, Lucy, and I moved to Namibia, we went to work on a volunteer-run project that has been going for years. It is a bit strange because, just before you arrive, fresh-faced and excited, the volunteers from before you, worldly-wise and infinitely superior, leave and you just step straight into their shoes. You inherit everything from their life; their home, their friends, their job, their pets….

As so when we turned up with our backpacks as big as ourselves at the door of our new home, we were greeted enthusiastically by a big golden floppy-eared dog called Diaz. It was lovely. I’d only ever had a dog once and that lasted for about a week. (I’ll admit that it’s because I was terrified of it so I think my parents had to return it to the pet shop. As I recall, my brother was having great fun with it.)

She was so funny. Her personality was a cross between a small child and an old lady. Before we had become aware of her peculiarities, she would fall asleep on the floor, her legs twitching in her dreams. We’d be going ‘ah, look, she’s so cute.’ Then she’d urinate. It must have been something about the cold tiled floor or something. She didn’t do it when she slept outside. We’d be reading books in the front room, enjoying a mid-afternoon siesta, perhaps. She’d sneakily fall asleep without us noticing. And she’d do it again. Our mop was well-used, let’s put it that way. I don’t even want to go into the time when she fell asleep on the sofa….

One time, we had been asked to house-sit for a friend who was going out of town for a few days. She had three dogs. We knew Diaz wouldn’t get along with them so we thought we would leave her behind. She was prone to staking out the school where we worked and barking incessantly so we knew we couldn’t let her see where we were going. As she was originally a street dog and adopted by the volunteers at the project a few years before us, she was more than adept at fending for herself. Plus, everyone knew she was the volunteer dog and when they saw her around town, she would get fussed over and sometimes fed better than us! We’d be munching through our fiftieth plate of rice and sweetcorn and Diaz would be getting fed burgers at a restaurant in town.

So anyway, we thought we’d leave her behind. Easier said than done. We shut the door which led down the steps into the garden and started walking down the road. It was only to the end of the road, then up the little hill half way, then a right. Very close. We’d be there in two minutes. We got four steps into our journey and Diaz was there next to us, panting away, her excited eyes asking where we were going.

“No, Diaz,” we told her and opened the door to the garden. She ran in and we locked the door again. We started walking, and again she was next to us. She could jump over the garden wall…. This time, we locked her in the garden and ran for our lives, hoping to get away before she got over the wall. She got over, of course, saw us and came along for the run. This was proving very difficult.

We eventually employed a technique which consisted of throwing sticks and things for her to fetch then ducking around corners and hiding inside porches. We must have walked halfway around the town trying to lose her! We kept on thinking we’d done it, she’d found another dog to play with, we’d get on our way again and then we’d see her rounding a corner in front of us and we’d have to backtrack quickly and hide inside someone’s porch or a shop for a while, waiting for her to pass. Needless to say, we were late to our friend’s house and Diaz found us anyway.

The Hairy Dogmother

I haven’t done one of these in ages, so I thought it was time to check in with everyone’s favourite magazine. You guessed it! Chat!

You know it’s going to be a good one when the front cover has stories such as ‘Bow WOW! My dog’s got wheely ace skills’ (next to a picture of a dog on a scooter), ‘Filmed on the loo by PERVERT in LADIES’ PANTS’ and ’13 DAY PREGNANCY THEN I HAD TWINS!’

I’ve noticed they’ve got a real thing about animal stories. They ran a ‘Mystic Mutt’ feature for a while, which was amazing. The psychic dog would answer letters from troubled animals, who wrote in about their problems. That’s right. You read it right. Animals. Would write in. To a magazine. And the psychic dog. Psychic, that’s right. Psychic dog. Would answer them. With advice. Or messages from the other realm.

This week’s Chat has the fairly standard stories, you know, a sex change here, a brutal attack there, girl kept in a cage, I’m in love with my granddad, I’ve got/had a rare disease but am not giving up hope, all those type of things. But by far the best this week is a story called ‘Hairy Dogmother To Cute Cubs,’ and the summary is “Abandoned by their real mum, I’ve adopted a trio of tigers.” I read on, expecting it to be about a woman who was in Thailand on holiday, maybe, at an animal sanctuary or something, she loves animals, there were some tigers, she loved them, she stayed and adopted them and now they are her life, she loves them.

I’m reading…

“‘Meow,’ the hungry bundle of fluff beside me cried. I nudged their striped fur and gave them a lick..”

Hold on, she’s going to get fur in her mouth, that’s gross, that’s how diseases spread. Silly woman…

“You see, I’d recently given birth to a litter of pups, so I had lots of milk to go around..”

Wait a minute!! Woah there! The penny drops! It’s not a woman writing this! It’s a dog! Well, it’s not really. Obviously. But the article is written from a dog’s point of view!

This is mental. It’s mental. What was the author thinking. When I look to the end of the article, sure enough, there it is. “By Duoduo the dog, from Qingdao, China.”

So not only can the dog apparently write, he is also bilingual! He’s a Chinese dog who has written an article for an English magazine.

He’s also a funny dog. Check these little puns out = “You may think I’m barking mad…” “It could have been a complete cat-astrophe.”

I’m sorry, I can’t write anymore at the moment. My mind is reeling. I need to get a cup of tea and sit still for a while.