We use some of them. Pride of lions. Herd of elk. School of fish. Gaggle of geese. There are more. I have a book on my shelf at home that has survived several moves and cullings called An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton which is about collective nouns.

Steve gave it to me. For a while we had the “every time we see each other we give each other a book” thing going. Those are fun seasons. The other night some friends came over for drinks and pie and he brought some record albums. This is how friendships are supposed to work. Want a book? Come over. I suppose those are things I appreciate much more than plural nouns, but I’ll write about them focusedly and specifically at another time.

Something said at lunch got me excited about collective nouns. The transition was probably from the possibility of elk tooth scrimshaw to the availability of elk herds nearby. That’s what it was. A herd of elk is a collective nouns. And there are others, and some of them are quite entertaining.

And…apparently in the 15th century Books of Venery included long lists of these collective nouns. People played games where they would recall or make them up. I’m tempted to look up more on that. Some of the examples are quite fun.

Just the examples quoted in the goodreads review of the book are fun to read: parliament of owls, leap of leopards, unction of undertakers, slouch of models, shrivel of critics, etc.

A fun assignment would be to come up with collective nouns for teenagers and teachers. Might need to follow up on that one.

NOTE: Written in class during 5th period after asking students to do a similar writing assignment. To improve this I could:

  1. Give more specific examples.
  2. Do some research on the books of venery and what the games include a few sentences explaining them.
  3. Provide examples of possible collective nouns for teenagers and teachers.
  4. Explain what a collective noun.

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