Sat | Nov 27, 2021

Bowled by collective nouns

Published:Monday | July 26, 2021 | 12:07 AM


With due respect to those who have sat in our Parliament and also to those who are now sitting, I hope they will find this letter instructive rather than offensive. English language can be at times very provocative, and most times we as a people do use it or even ‘spin’ its meanings and interpretations to elucidate a point we want to make.

Researching collective nouns used throughout the archives of the English language, we can draw the inference and conclusions that the founding fathers of our spoken language were meticulous that collective nouns used to describe groups of animals bear some resemblance or some behavioural pattern of the noun itself. For example ‘a gaggle of geese’ a ‘pride of lions’ a ‘herd of cows’.

There are some other collective nouns that are less used in our modern conversation for reasons unknown to most of us, such as a ‘murder of crows’, an ‘exaltation of doves’ and, interestingly, this instructive one, a ‘congress of owls’, possibly because the owls are wise?

The one that struck me most is the collective noun for baboons. Baboons can be the most obnoxious, aggressive, loudest and the least intelligent of all primates, yet the founding fathers of the language used the word ‘parliament’ to describe a group of baboons, hence the collective noun ‘a parliament of baboons’.

What will they think of next?


Former JLP councillor