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It happened to me yesterday, when Google Suggest churned out: “my butler disappeared”. Turns out, the term is related to disappearing butlers in The Sims 3.
Out of context, words and phrases can be weird. And our love for the English language here recently took me and our graphic designer down the road of collective nouns.
We thought we’d create this funny list for you and bring them to life with illustrations … for no real reason other than to make you smile at the end of a hard week.
Did you know the collective noun for butlers is a ‘sneer of butlers’? Harsh.
See if you like them and share your personal favourites in the comments (if our designer gets the time, she might just create a new illustration for you)
A Bike of Bees
Collective Noun for Bees isa Bike of Bees
It’s amusing to imagine a swarm of bees flying in bicycle formation, but the real reason this is a collective noun for bees is because the word “bike” is an old English word which means a colony, nest, or swarm.
A Family of Sardines
Collective Noun for Sardines is a Family of Sardines
We love this one because it calls to mind images of a nuclear family of small fish. We’re not sure of the origin of this collective noun (though we think it could be related to the tin-can they end up in!).
A Glaring of Cats
One of the Collective Nouns for Cats is a Glaring of Cats
The definition of glaring is “having a fixed look of hostility, fierceness, or anger”, which accurately describes how my cat looks at me pretty much all of the time. We can see why this collective noun was chosen for cats!
A Rhumba of Rattlesnakes
Collective Noun for Rattlesnakes is a Rhumba of Rattlesnakes
If you’ve ever seen two male rattlesnakes fighting in competition for dominance of a female, you’ll understand why a “rhumba” has been used as the collective noun for this venomous reptile. There’s a lot of slow, deliberate weaving followed by quick, sharp movements that closely resemble the slow-quick-quick pattern of the American Rhumba dance.
A Mess of Iguanas
To understand why a group of iguanas is called a “mess”, you just need to look. In the wild, iguanas lie intertwined in large groups and it can be difficult to see where one iguana ends and another begins. The reason for this is that iguanas are cold-blooded so they regulate their body temperature by basking in the sun.
An Army of Caterpillars
This collective noun likely describes the behaviours exhibited by caterpillars when they travel in large groups. What’s great about these armies of caterpillars is that they’re incredibly well organised. They participate in cooperative foraging for food, group defence against predators, shelter building & thermoregulation.
A Nest of Rumours
A nest of rumours is the only collective noun on this list that’s not related to animals. We love this one because it evokes the image of a hidey-hole where scandalous information is being amassed – undoubtedly for later use.
A Gang of Elks
Yes, a group of elk is called a gang. Yes, the elk in the image above are carrying guns and sporting bandanas. Groups of elk may have been labelled as gangs because elk bulls do something called ‘bugling’ – loud screaming which can be heard for miles and miles. What a bunch of thugs!
A Huddle of Walruses
A group of walruses can also be called a ‘herd’ or a ‘pod’, but we like ‘huddle’ best. Walruses are most often found sunbathing on land or sea ice with hundreds of their companions. Walruses are very sociable creatures and even amass in their thousands in mating season. What’s also interesting is that these huddles are often segregated by gender –males have their own huddles and females have their own huddles.
A Bed of Clams
A group of clams is known collectively as a ‘bed’ of clams. This collective noun conjured up an image of hundreds of clams cosily sleeping side-by-side. ‘A bed of’ can also be used to describe a group of snakes, oysters or flowers.
A Shiver of Sharks
One of our favourite collective nouns on the list is the name for a group of sharks – a ‘shiver’. We think it could be suggestive of what happens to a person who stumbles across a group of sharks while out swimming. Or it could relate to the fact that most sharks are cold-blooded.
A Crash of Rhinoceroses
One of the best and most well-known of all collective nouns is a ‘crash’ of rhinoceroses. Rhinos gather on the African grassy plains in groups of up to twelve. However, the collective noun was most likely inspired by the rhino’s tendency to charge at anything unfamiliar, although fights between rhinos are rare because male rhinos (or bulls) tend to avoid each other unless they are competing for the same female.
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A Horde of Hamsters
What makes this collective noun so hilarious is that it conjures up images of an army or tribe of primitive warriors. We’d be far more likely to relate a ‘horde’ of something with a group of zombies, goblins or orcs – not a group of small, fluffy rodents!
A Kindle of Kittens
The collective noun for a group of kittens is known as a kindle. It relates to the verb to kindle which means ‘to give birth to young’. But we thought it would be fun anyway to visualise a group of kittens climbing out of an e-reader.