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May 24, 2022

It Happens Every Sunday

Look Maynard! It’s a peccadillo of columnists!
By Herman Wrede, Special to the Pinnacle
The English language is a magnificent creation that never stops
growing. But some facets of it seemed to have been devised
centuries ago.
Take animal groupings, for instance. Many were conceived in
medieval ages but still are applicable today: pride of lions, leap
of leopards, ambush of tigers and coalition of cheetahs.
Look Maynard! It’s a peccadillo of columnists!

By Herman Wrede, Special to the Pinnacle

The English language is a magnificent creation that never stops growing. But some facets of it seemed to have been devised centuries ago.

Take animal groupings, for instance. Many were conceived in medieval ages but still are applicable today: pride of lions, leap of leopards, ambush of tigers and coalition of cheetahs.

There is something about a quiver of cobras, shiver of sharks and a wake of buzzards that awaken sinister recognition of old horrors to modern ears. Add to them a float of crocodiles, along with a murder of crows and a skulk of foxes, and one better understands the feelings of our ancestors in observing them in the wild, unlike today when most are safely viewed through the bars or heavy wire netting of zoos.

The world of birds has many examples: a gaggle of geese, which becomes a skein when flying, or a wedge when in a v-shaped formation. Is anything wiser than a parliament of owls, or more brazen than a scold of jays? Consider the tenderness of a piteousness of doves, or the gossipy nature of a tiding of magpies, or the color of a muster of peacocks. An exultation of larks is perfect, as is a chattering of chicks. Pheasants have two groupings – a nide when on the ground, but a bouquet when flushed.

A school of fish came down through the centuries from a misprint in a book in which it was supposed to have been a shoal of fish.

A crash of rhinos is appropriate, as much as a romp of otters. How can one better describe a group of lizards than as a lounge? One wonders, though, at a glut of goldfish, or an implausibility of gnus (No gnus is good news?) A cowardice of curs requires no further description, although a shrewdness of apes is puzzling.

And then there is a surfeit of skunks. Most people would maintain that a single skunk is more than a surfeit by itself.

Eagles come in convocations but no grouping is given for Rotarians or Exchangites. Perhaps a dedication for the former and a merriment for the latter would be appropriate.

The proper nomenclature for groups based on profession and obsession could be handy in communication. Try a promise of politicians, for instance. It characterizes most engaged in that pursuit, although the deepest-dyed of that grouping might be depicted as an oratory.

How about a lurch of drunkards, or a stumble of pugilists? A giggle or brooding of teenagers may be interchanged depending on mood, but an indignation of feminists is likely to trigger protesting letters to the editor. Even a rash of dermatologists might prove offensive to that group, although there can be no negative inference drawn from a manipulation of chiropractors.

A column of accountants seems appropriate but that term may be construed to mean journalists. Perhaps a press of newsmen would better describe the latter.

Then there is a nuisance of telephone solicitors, a bubba of rednecks, and a hallelujah of evangelists. Try a banner of patriots for the red, white and blue people who brook no opinion but that of their party’s leader.

What about an arrogance of athletes, specifically the highly paid professionals who are not expected to exercise courtesy, to acknowledge any obligation to anyone or even to follow the rules of society?

A squall of infants is easy enough, and a refusal of three-year-olds is nearly so. You are invited to think of terms for those groupings that are dear or drear to you. It exercises the mind and is better than bowling for releasing tension.

I suggested a gentility of columnists but everyone here – from the publisher to the janitor – laughed themselves silly, so it is withdrawn.

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