We were sitting in the pub enjoying a very refreshing pint of otter, after a very hot and sticky day, and we got to pondering on otters, and wondering what is the collective noun for them… it turns out it’s quite delightful, a romp of otters! That then got me thinking about the other bizarre collective nouns there are in English, and wondering whether it is similar in other languages, and how true some of the more bizarre examples are – maybe they were made up by people like us sitting round in the pub!

Everyone knows a lot of the collective nouns, a herd, a gaggle, a swarm, a troop, even some f the more unusual creatures have fairly well-known names, a charm of goldfinches, a murder of crows, a pod of whales and even, maybe a skulk of foxes. Some names for groups of animals can be understood, even if you’ve not come across them before, a knot of toads (sounds a little horrid somehow) a drift of bees (sounds more benign than a swarm!) or a muster of peacocks. Then there are names which must be very old, regional, or from an ancient language or dialect because there are variations of them applied to different creatures, for example, a nest, nide or nye of pheasants – the French for nest is ‘nid’ so you can imagine it might be derived from Norman French… and here is a very interesting article about how pheasants had been around in England for about a thousand years and then became popular with the arrival of William of Normandy and his cronies:

http://www.thefield.co.uk/shooting/the-history-of-the-pheasant-22364

Some names however – and please correct me if I’m wrong, just sound like made-up-in-the-pub-names…

  • an obstinacy of buffalo
  • a business of ferrets
  • a tower of giraffes
  • a bloat or thunder of hippopotamuses
  • a cackle of hyenas
  • a shadow of jaguars
  • a conspiracy of lemurs
  • a richness of martens
  • a prickle of porcupines
  • a crash of rhinoceroses
  • a maelstrom of salamanders
  • a consortium of crabs
  • an intrusion of cockroaches
  • a hood of snails
  • an audience of squid

 

2 thoughts on “A romp of Otters

  1. A romp of otters – how wonderful! A Greek friend of mine was amazed when I reeled off collective nouns for animals. He said that they really have only the basic ones, like herd or flock, and perhaps a few more. And Greek is such a rich language, I’m always being told!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is extraordinary isn’t it! I wonder if all these different words come because so many other languages make up English, or whether the more original sounding ones come from one source – say Anglo-Saxon or French?

      Like

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