Thursday, 10 March 2016

Collectively speaking - Karen Bush

No, we are not a pack of dogs.
Try again ...
I was thinking the other day about the collective nouns given to birds. A gaggle of geese sounds just about right when the beastly things are in hot pursuit of you, and a flamboyance of flamingoes is spot on too. I love a bellowing of bullfinches and an omniscience of godwits is just sublime, but a murder of crows seems a bit unfair and unnecessarily name-tarnishing. But it turns out that you can also have a parliament of crows - although it can be confusing as you can have a parliament of owls too. And going by our own parliament that's not exactly a compliment of any kind either. 
There are some truly wonderful group names, which are not confined solely to birds either - whoever came up with a bloat of hippopotamuses or a fluther of jellyfish? And did you know that the old English term of venery for a load of kittens was a kindle? Think on that next time you switch on your e-reader ...
All this pondering naturally led me to thinking about collective terms for groups of authors. I know it's an idea which has been thought about before, but since many birds and animals actually have more than one collective noun, why shouldn't we? 
A scribble of writers for example, for those who prefer to get the first draft done with a good old fashioned pen (or even a pencil) or a clatter of typists for those who refuse to be parted from their cherished Olivettis, Smith-Coronas and Olympias ... 
And then there are all the different genres to consider: in my own specialist area, I'm thinking of a ride of equestrian writers - or should that perhaps be a canter? Some genres have sub-categories that could be further defined - within my own horsy purlieu, a piaffe or maybe a passage of dressage writers, a leap of showjumping writers, a hammer of farriery writers (yes, they do exist) and of course, a gallop of racing writers ...
Looking wider afield, how about a curse of horror writers? A scream of ghost story writers? A mystery of whodunnit writers?   A whirlwind of romance writers? And there are still dozens of others - gangster, fantasy, historic, comic, Western, courtroom, murder, epic, superhero, zombie, adventure, cops'n'robbers ...

Of course. A snuggle of whippets.


8 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

I rather fancy being in a 'mystery of whodunit writers'. Not so sure about a 'curse of horror writers' though. Good post Karen and nice to see the whippets looking so good. I reckon they're cogitating over your group names!

Jan Needle said...

apropos of Chris's suggestion, why not a whodunit of mystery writers instead?

Susan Price said...

I think I'd like 'a shiver of ghost story writers.' But deciding on a collective term for ALL writers is harder. Since we all spent so much time in the other worlds of our imaginations, how about 'an elsewhen of writers'?

JO said...

I've just come back from the Galapagos - is there a collective noun for boobies? (They are a sea bird with blue or red feet!)

Katherine Langrish said...

A conspiracy of mystery writers. (Or should that be spy stories?)

Lydia Bennet said...

A blunder of boobies? I wonder who it is who chooses these supposedly established collective names and how they get them accepted - is there something like the Guinness book of records, for collective nouns? An autopsy of authors perhaps for crime novelists, or a bouquet of romance writers.

Jan Needle said...

I was once told a collection of UK sex workers was called an anthology of English prose. Can't be true, surely?

Katherine Roberts said...

The best one I've come across is a procrastination of authors...