The English language has over 1000 names for groups of things.  My Dad, who as a former English Professor and current Attorney cannot be slighted for his lack of word knowledge, hates this particular game, calling it an activity that stupid people engage in thinking it’s smart.  He prefers a somewhat more streamlined method of referring to groups of things, i.e. a “s**t-load” of bears, bees, birds, or even animals not beginning with the letter “b.”  My brother prefers to refer to things as “bunches.”  Meanwhile, I am of a similar mind to my father and often find myself saying “that’s a s**t-ton of. . .”

Clearly the actual terms appeal to people more for their whimsy than for their utility, and after a sounder of beers my brother and I found ourselves trying to come up with a few.  Sadly, the only clever collective noun I could call to mind at that moment was a “murder of crows.”  First, because “murder” seems strangely apropos for sinister gatherings of black birds, especially for anyone who has seen Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, and also because it was referenced in the Simpson’s episode Weekend at Burnsie’s where Homer explains to Marge, “It’s a murder, honey. A group of crows is called a murder.”  Thus it covers at least two distinct branches of trivia.

There are many websites dedicated to collections of, uh, collective nouns.  Some, are familiar like a “gaggle of geese” and a “school of fish,” while others, such as a “harem of seals” and an “implausibility of gnus” border on the ridiculous and sound as though they were made up on the spot.  While the aforementioned examples can be corroborated, I’m sure others *are* fabrications, as I’ve yet to find a site that cites its sources. The following list of 20 collectives, contains many that I like, along with some originals.  Can you tell the difference?  Comment with your favorites, real or speculative.

knot of toads
plague of pigeons
kettle of finches
dray of squirrels
murmuration of starlings
leap of leopards
bale of turtles
cuteness of koalas
exaltation of larks
sounder of boars
shrewdness of apes
unkindness of ravens
serendipity of sea lions
sloth of bears
muster of storks
zeal of zebras
labor of moles
sedge of cranes
parcel of penguins
grim of wolves

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