How about a whale of iPods?

In todays Free Press, Paul Berton complains about the imaginative scope of the English language:

Let’s not say ‘pod’ of whales

Whenever I see the expression “pride of lions” I wonder why editors tolerate it. After all, isn’t “group” or “herd” good enough, and who decided anyway that lions would be referred to collectively as “prides?”

And just how did some of them make it into the language and past newspaper editors, who are trained to always replace complicated words with simpler ones?

The fact is “group” should suffice for every animal on Earth, and if you really want to get musical or fancy or learned you can use “school” for fish, “herds” for large, four-legged furry creatures, and “flocks” for birds.

But that is not what we do. Imagine being new to the English language and being told that goats come in “herds” but sheep come in “flocks.” And that geese also come in “flocks,” which also, if they are not in the air, come in gaggles. And that some birds (swans, wrens) can come not in “flocks” but in “herds.” And I’m not even getting into collective nouns for fish, which apparently (or perhaps not) come in all kinds of descriptions.

What immediately came to mind for me was, “clump of reporters”, and “paucity of writers”, or perhaps a “simpleness of editors” ?

And it seems an oddly libertarian argument, to do away with collective nouns. Is there a collective noun for Libertarians? A “consensus of Libertarians” ?


  1. I’ve never liked the idea that the “correct” word for something is a word no one knows or ever uses. “Gaggle” is a fun word, and I know it, so I use it. But who ever talks about a “parliament” of crows (or is it owls)? When in doubt, I just use “bunch”, as in “I saw a bunch of musk ox yesterday.”

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