Monday, October 8, 2012

A Plump of Seals and other Things

A few weeks ago, 
I wrote about a squabbling crowd of starlings 
that invaded the neighborhood. 
It was then that I learned a group of starlings is called a "murmuration,"
thanks to a 1975 reference book called 
"Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms" by Ivan G. Sparkes.
I tracked down a source and soon the book arrived at my door.
Reading through it has been an interesting diversion. 
So I thought I would share a few fun facts from Sparkes, 
who seems to have discovered collective terms
to describe the smallest to the largest members of the animal kingdom.

For example, Sparkes tells us that a large collection of ants 
(which are a scourge here every time it rains)
is called a "bike of ants."
On the other hand, a group of mites is correctly termed a "bite of mites."
I'm not sure that one would translate well into modern discourse.
But even less so is to describe lice as a flock.

The book says that butterflies congregating are a rabble
which seems to describe starlings better, given their poor reputation.
Kangaroos are a mob; elks are a gang
making them both sound a bit formidable, 
as if they lurk in the darkness and wait to jump unsuspecting humans.
If one has three foxes, they have a leash; if a couple of squirrels, a dray.
An aggregation of hippopotami is a bloat;
more than one giraffe is called a tower.

The Sparkes dictionary is entertaining 
and its descriptive terms are often on the mark.
Anyone who has had a cat shred their curtains can attest to 
why they are called a destruction.
But in fairness, cats are also called a clowder, a clutter
and perhaps because of their icy stares, a glaring.

 I couldn't wait to look up any alternate names for multiple dogs, 
since my husband and I currently share our home with five pekingese.
I expected the term pack, but it is apparently a modern description for dogs.
The older term is doggery. And I thought that fit our situation pretty well:
we reside with a doggery of dogs.
But another term caught my eye, 
this one specifically used to describe more than one pekingese.
More than one pekingese is called a pomp of pekingese,
which to me sounds like an ostentatious parade or an elaborate dessert. 

Here is my pomp of pekingese last Christmas: 
L to R: Xiao Xiao Jie 'Missy'; Cosme Mo Ming 'Cosi' (on floor); Liliang Xin, 'Lily'; 
Teddy Bear Blue 'Ted' (up for adoption, contact, 
and Wylie Po Zhong Qi 'Wylie' on the far Right.

They are adorable in the photo, looking every bit a pomp.
But when they come in from a rainy, muddy romp outdoors, 
trailing pine needles and leaves and a dirty residue in their wake,
I'd say 'doggery' suits them better.

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