by Curt Kovener
A collective noun, as students of Mrs. Lewis’s high school English class will tell you, is a word for a group of specific items, animals or people. For example, a group of ships is called a fleet, a group of cows is called a herd, a group of lions is called a pride, a group of baseball players is called a team, and a group of ants is called a colony.
But there are unique names for a collection of animals; some are obvious after some thought, others are head scratchers.
For instance, it is a cauldron of bats, it is a kindle of kittens but as they mature a group of cats is a clowder. A group of puppies is a litter and a group of dogs is a pack.
On the farm it is a tribe of goats, flock of chickens, a gaggle of geese, a pace of donkeys, a pack of mules, and not a CAFO of hogs but a passel of pigs.
For the less domesticated animals it is a cauldron of bats, a band of gorillas, a pod of whales, a warren of rabbits, a murder of crows, an unkindness of ravens, a covey of quail, a kettle of hawks, a convocation of eagles, a troop of kangaroos.
Then there are those collective names that, after some thought, make perfect sense: a labor of moles, a charm of finches, a stand of flamingos, a romp of otters, scold of bluejays, a crash of rhinoceroses, a scurry of squirrels, a pandemonium of parrots, they are a flock of ducks in flight but a raft of ducks on the water, a tower of giraffes.
And finally, a group of owls (the bird known for being wise) is called a parliament. A group of baboons is called a congress.
I shall leave you to meditate on that without comment.