If as the saying goes, “there is strength in numbers”, then collective nouns must be the brawniest of nouns. A collective noun is one word which designates a group (itself a collective noun) of “something” and thus permits the group to be spoken of as one unit. Collective nouns are a part of our everyday speech: a board of directors, a band of brothers, a host of angels, and, appropriately enough given the expected arrival of the DNC in Charlotte, a slate of candidates.
The collective nouns with which we are most familiar are those encompassing groups of animals, such as herd of elephants, flock of sheep, brood of hens, pride of lions, etc. “Terms of vernery” are specific collective nouns which define groups of animals. Illustrations include: a school of fish, a litter of puppies, a pride of lions and a pod of seals.
James Lipton (author and dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace – yes, that James Lipton of “Inside the Actors Studio”) was so captivated with the little-known collective nouns that he researched and published a compilation, An Exaltation of Larks, in 1968. The book contains both real terms and those created by Lipton. It has been frequently reprinted over the years and has inspired a game by which individuals create their own collective nouns. I became enthralled by the various collective nouns for birds – a murder of crows, a charm of finches and, of course, an exaltation of larks. I was inspired to create my own collective nouns including:
A fret of guitarists
A sheath of dresses
And a re-boot of technologists.
And so, the game continues…