Wednesday Words: A Herd of Labels

It’s a herd of cattle, a school of fish, a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese, a flock of seagulls, and a                                  of whales. Who knows?

Killer Whales

Another oddity of the English language is how many words we have invented to label animal groupings! This Texan gal wonders why everything can’t be called a herd. Brand it, graze it, name it a herd, and be done.

Texas Longhorn Cattle

But words are not included or excluded in language usage by majority vote. Language evolves.

And in this case, I believe that hunters are to blame. They apparently came up with various terms to describe the critters they came in contact with and cooked for dinner.

Some of the interesting ones I found include:

An army of frogs – Since when have those croaking creatures seemed ready to take up arms?

A bale of turtles – Back to the Texan thing, I thought bales described hay.

A band of gorillas – Maybe they should sell songs and go on tour.

A bed of clams – Doesn’t seem like that would be a comfy place to sleep!

A clutter of cats – Now this one I believe, when you imagine a sweet old lady with fourteen cats and fifty years worth of clutter in her house.

A shrewdness of apes – What a compliment to give a bunch of banana-eaters!

A sleuth of bears – Perhaps it should have been Hercule Polar-Bear instead of Hercule Poirot.

A cast of hawks – Can they do a rendition of Chicago?

A murder of crows – Were they named before or after the creepy Edgar Allen Poe wrote his famous Raven poem?

A troop of monkeys – Maybe the monkeys are at war with the army of frogs.

A colony of penguins – Will they ever make statehood?

A streak of tigers – “Oh yes, they call them the Streak! Boogity, Boogity!”

A convocation of eagles – A rather formal assembly, but aren’t eagles mostly lone creatures?

A nest of rabbits – Why did I think that this one would surely be a herd?

Can you fill in the blanks for the following?

A                              of leopards

A                              of kangaroos

A                              of owls

Did you get any?

Just in case, they are a leap of leopards, a mob of kangaroos, and a parliament of owls.  By the way, as mentioned above, it’s usually a pod of whales.  The list continues with innumerable monikers for animal groupings.    Check out the following websites for more animal group names:

Rink Works – Fun with Words
EnglishClub.com
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

I say if you don’t know what to call it, though, try flock, herd, or hive. That covers a lot, doesn’t it? At least, that’s what I call my kids when they are behaving like a troop of monkeys! The flock of kids, the herd of boys, the hive of he-children!

Do you have any other favorites? What are animal group names that you easily remember? Which ones do you like from above?

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6 thoughts on “Wednesday Words: A Herd of Labels

  1. Hi Julie!Your blog is fantastically informational. I thought for a moment I had it with the first question you posed, with "school of whales" Alas, I was wrong! These were so much fun to read, though. Thank you for contributing to my "fun facts" repertoire :)Learning words from the OED and extinct unabridged dictionaries is a quirky little passion of mine. And I collect words assiduously. Can't beat a fun new word each day from Dictionary.com either! Cara R. OlsenA writer's quirks and commiserations

  2. Cara,Thanks for the compliment! And I love that you threw the word "assiduously" in there. Beautiful! I'm also a dictionary.com fan. Glad you enjoyed the Wednesday Words post!

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