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Murders, Bloats, etc.

Bayou-Diversity (25 February 2018) There is a very good chance that everyone reading this blog has witnessed a murder. The observation may have occurred in your own back yard. A murder, you see, is the collective term for a group of crows, as in, “a murder of crows just descended on my corn patch.” Many such archaic terms exist for animal congregations. Some seem to have a rational link to the species; others are outright bizarre. It begs the question: Who comes up with these words? In the bird world, examples include finches, a group of which is called a charm. Several owls are referred to as a parliament, a bunch of vultures is called a wake, and a few jays make up a scold. My favorite word for a bird group and one that makes perfect sense is that for cormorants. A group of these opportunistic scoundrels is called a gulp. I didn't make this up. In the realm of mammals, several ferrets are called a business, kangaroos and monkeys live in troops, three or more rhinoceroses make up a crash, and as we would expect a group of hippopotamuses constitutes a bloat. It's easy for us in Louisiana to relate to a nest of snakes or a shoal of bass, not so much for a shiver of sharks or a tower of giraffes.

I'm not sure that there is much value in learning these obscure terms unless you are a crossword puzzle addict or writing the definitive historical novel about 17th century England. Most should probably just remain archaic, not unlike a plague of locusts.


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