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It all started with a jellyfish. Well, a group of jellyfish in fact. A recent thread on a writer’s forum posed the question: What is a group of jellyfish called?

The first suggestion was a sting of jellyfish, and then another forum member came up with an armada of Portugese Man O’War.

This was quickly followed by a gobbet of jellyfish, and then the discussion swam off into deeper waters. And other terrains. Lots of ideas for collective nouns came pouring forth:

A skulk of foxes. A leap of leopards. A kindle of kittens. An exaltation of larks. A labour of moles. A shine of moons.

Some wonderful images and phrases, and it was at this point I thought we might be going inter-galactic, but we soon came back down to Earth again:

A murder of crows and a parliament of owls got things flying again, hinting towards the political. But Mother Nature soon took over again, and we were treated to a watch of nightingales, a shrewdness of apes, a sneak of weasels and a skirl of pipers.

Someone then pointed out that this type of language isn’t taught in schools anymore, which made the next suggestion quite appropriate: A thicket of teachers.

A fluther of jellyfish was reckoned to be correct at this stage in the discussion. And then, politics came back into the mix: a murder of parliaments, a mediocrity of politicians, a disaster of politicians. All good choices considering the turbulent times we’re living in.

Then, with evidence from web searches, fluther was disproved, and a new suggestion was mooted: a smack of jellyfish.

Ideas for new and inventive collective nouns continued to pour forth: a stack of librarians, a cuddle of teddy bears, a brace of dentists.

A hush of librarians, a sentimentality of teddy bears, a corrosion of politicians. A riot of reviewers, a benevolence of publishers, a plague of clichés.

Finally, someone suggested a wobble of jellyfish, and that conjured up a strong image. Ultimately, I guess it’s up to each individual writer.

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2 thoughts on “Drowning in Collective Nouns

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