Friday, February 24, 2012

A Watch of Nightingales and a Descent of Woodpeckers: Strange Collective Nouns

While tidying up the Reference Collection, I came across a small, yellowing book, the Dictionary of collective nouns and group terms by Ivan G. Sparkes, (Gale 1975) It was so dusty I doubt it has been used recently and yet it's hard to relegate it to the warehouse of outdated reference books*. I suspect reference librarians before me have spared this little book that ignominious fate because a casual glance through its pages reveal the following collective nouns that really are inspired:
the fairly well-known group term - an exaltation of larks (p 6)
the common collective nouns - flock, pile, heap, herd or shoal (p 6)
the alliterative - a giggle of girls (p 51)
the punny - a rash of dermatologists (p 85)
the puzzling - a malpertness of pedlars (p 160)
the appropriate - a sheaf or catalogue of librarians (p 149)

If you love words, history of language and word games, take a look at our database Visual Thesaurus which can be found on our "Databases & Articles" webpage.

* A Princeton File of Reference Librarians likes to think that useless old reference books go to the Great Reference Warehouse in the Far Distant Land of Dewey DecimalVille.

1 comment:

The Helpful Art Teacher said...

Hi Anne, great blog! I replied to your comment on my blog! :-)