All hail the collective noun

I strongly suggest that if your job doesn’t appear to have an ‘official’ collective noun, such as a drunkenness of cobblers, you get yourself out there and find one

We could all use a few more collective nouns in our lives.

I had a birthday a few weeks ago (am now less than 1,820 days away from being a cougar) and much to my delight the gifts are still rolling in. I am greatly obsessed with me and it’s pleasing that others are too, judging by the quality of the gifts (including a spiffy 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of Wills and Kate).

In among the teapots, sausages, books and Other Good Things were the birthday cards, the best of which had a lovely long list of collective nouns. Did you just clutch yourself with glee? I think you did. Collective nouns are rather excellent things we don’t use enough, aside from the obvious herd/flock/party/murder of sheep/strippers/toast/aubergines that pepper our everyday language. But a confederacy of dunces, a multiplying of husbands (something to aim for, there) and a crash of rhinos – the beauty and lyricism and sometimes just plain sense that these bring to the yard make all conversations that much better.

Communication isn’t everyone’s strong suit – but just imagine how much better yours could be with a few decent collective nouns thrown in for kicks and emphasis. A discretion of priests seems altogether quite pertinent with the alarming number of cases where it appears those of the cloth are sticking together and Not Talking About the Bad Things. A blast of hunters doesn’t really need explaining but it certainly adds flavour and sparkle. Forget about your crews, packs, teams and gangs – what about the conclaves, droves, chapters, laughters and safeguards?

I strongly suggest that if your job doesn’t appear to have an ‘official’ collective noun, such as a drunkenness of cobblers, you get yourself out there and find one. I’m all for being part of a press of editors. I like to imagine us all squished up together, squabbling about neologisms and other nitpicky things no sane person would care about, slowly being pressed into the beauteous silence that is the written word.

Basically, collective nouns are a celebration of words and things – a more melodic and interesting way of grouping items. So put some frills on your communication skills and impress your workmates, get noticed by those above and below you on the food chain and make everything all the more impressive in the process by engaging the help of collective fun-time nouns.

Make the world a better place. Noun and noun equals high five.

(Apology – this blog might not have contained anything particularly helpful bar my hopefully infectious adoration of language, which is not just for the home, it’s for the rest of your life. That includes the workplace.)

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