I am fascinated by the names that have been given to groups of animals of different species.
Of course we’re all familiar with ‘flock’ and ‘herd’ and ‘pack.’ ¬†But what about ‘obstinacy,’ ‘crash,’ and ‘hedge?’ ¬†Buffalo gather in an obstinacy, a crash is a group of hippopotami, and a group of herons is called a hedge!
I have to wonder who thought of calling a group of bears a sleuth, a group of foxes a leash, or a group of wombats a wisdom (did someone discover that the group-think of wombats is superior to that of humans?). ¬†And how on earth did a group of rattlesnakes come to be called a rhumba? ¬†Did some observer find their movements dance-like? ¬†
A few of the names do make some kind of sense. ¬†It’s not hard to see why a group of porcupines is called a prickle, a group of giraffes is a tower, a group of peacocks is an ostentation, and a group of swans is a whiteness!
Some of the strangest names, it seems, have been reserved for birds. ¬†Do I detect some hostility in naming a group of ravens an unkindness and a group of crows a murder? ¬†Negative-sounding names are also applied to other birds, such as a deceit of lapwings and a squabble of seagulls. ¬†I wonder what those people were trying to cook up when they named a group of raptors a cauldron and a group of nighthawks a kettle.
A group of hummingbirds or finches, both pretty little birds, is called a charm.
Even emotions are expressed in the names of some bird groupings, like an exaltation of larks, a pitying of turtle doves.
And maybe we are expressing respect in calling a group of owls or rooks a parliament, a group of eagles a convocation, and a group of plovers a congregation.
In a future posting, I may delve into some questions these names raise in my mind. ¬†Who came up with them? ¬†And how did it come to be that animal groups became a category in which naming became so extraordinarily playful and unpredictable?
One might call this whole assemblage of names a creativity. –April Moore