I confess, I’m a bit of an English geek. I suspect you might be, too. I collect words like other people collect stamps, or coins, or teddy bears.
Collective nouns are some of my favourites – there’s a glorious set of illustrations by Woop Studios (who worked on Harry Potter!) and I am eyeing up several for my wall.
Such beauties as an opera of canaries:
An aurora of polar bears:
And the wonderfully appropriate ostentation of peacocks:
But where did they come from? Quick history lesson – they’re also known as “nouns of assembly” and “terms of venery” and apply to animals, fish and invertebrates. The terms were first used in the fourteenth century, when it was fashionable for nobles to extend their vocabulary, the better to distinguish themselves from ordinary people. The first recorded list numbers 70 collective nouns. Although the word “venery” is no longer in common use, the nouns themselves are – a pride of lions, a murder of crows… and the’y’re some of the most wonderfully descriptive phrases.
I’ve coined two of my own for my favourite objects – a scratch of pens and a clatter of typewriters. Because that’s exactly what they do!
Have a browse of the illustrated collection and let us know your favourites, or your inventions!
Wishing you unicorns and happiness,