Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Cloud of Amaryllis

Yesterday's Amaryllis seemed like a gathering, a drift, or a cloud.  There is a wealth of creative collective noun names for birds - yet flowers which are plentiful have only a few collective nouns. There are bunches, bouquets, sprays, gardens, beds, patches, drifts,  clumps and nosegays.For something that is so prominent on the planet.  Here's a few of our familiar collective nouns and what they describe:
  • Bevy - of girls, ladies, swans, doves, beauties
  • Caravan - of merchants, pilgrims, travellers
  • Cluster - of grapes, islands, nuts, stars, rings
  • Colony - of people, ants, badgers, beavers, penguins, rabbits, rats, seals, frogs, gulls, vultures
  • Flight - of aircrafts, arrows, bees, birds, insects, locusts, stairs, steps
  • Herd - of cattle, deer, swine, antelope, boar, buffalo, chamois, chinchillas, donkeys, elephants, elk, giraffes, gnus, goats, hippopotami, horses, kangaroos, llamas, moose, oxen, pigs, seals, swans, walruses, whales, yaks, zebras (when pasturing or driven together)
And in reverse, we can see some of the collective nouns that describe something.
  • Crows: Murder, congress, horde, muster, cauldron
  • Soldiers - army, brigade, company, division, platoon, squad, unit
  • Trees - forest, grove, orchard, stand, thicket
  • Birds - flock, flight, parcel, pod, votary, brace, dissimulation
  • Buffalo - a herd, group, gang or obstinacy
  • Cats - a chowder, pounce, kindle, letter, intrigue, clutter, comfort, chowder, colony
Someone has 'gathered' these collective nouns together for our enjoyment.  It is James Lipton - An Exaltation of Larks - The Ultimate Edition More Than 1,000 Terms. (free delivery worldwide from Britain)

The back cover copy is a delight in itself:

An "exaltation of larks"? Yes! And a "leap of leopards", a "parliament of owls", an "ostentation of peacocks", a "smack of jellyfish", and a "murder of crows"! For those who have ever wondered if the familiar "pride of lions" and "gaggle of geese" were only the tip of a linguistic iceberg, James Lipton has provided the definitive answer: here are hundreds of equally pithy, and often poetic, terms unearthed by Mr. Lipton in the Books of Venery that were the constant study of anyone who aspired to the title of gentleman in the fifteenth century. When Mr. Lipton's painstaking research revealed that five hundred years ago the terms of venery had already been turned into the Game of Venery, he embarked on an odyssey...

Our image today was taken during the polar vortex a few years ago - frost on the conservatory glass in the shape of nature's own patterns - a Christmas tree.

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