Saturday, May 1, 2010

121. A unit of family

Collective nouns are one of the joys of being a language-o-phile. Whether it is a wealth of information, a cache of jewels, an ascension of larks, a bed of oysters, or a battery of tests, collective nouns are always a joy to ponder. Some are wicked and fanciful, and yet others are plebeian and commonplace. During the week, I created ‘a sway of belly dancers’. I have no idea whether this was original, I just know that I made it up.

The wicked and fanciful creations are a delight. How about these gems provided by Google: ‘a sentence of judges’ or ‘an annoyance of neighbours’, or perhaps your fancy is tickled by ‘a fraid of ghosts’.

Of course, when the noun is already ‘collected’ the more desperate amongst us – journalists and sociologists bear the brunt of this scorn - is inclined to double-dip. Hence, a family becomes ‘a family unit’.


Clytie said...

I guess I never thought much about collective nouns, except in relation to birds. A gaggle of geese, and so on. Some are quite cute!

Joan Elizabeth said...

Yes I noticed the sway of dancers the other day. And there was another one too recently but I can't remember it now.

This is a good "essay" on the theme.