If one loves words, sooner or later one comes across the rarer nouns of congregation, e.g. a murder of crows, an ascension of larks, a shrewdness of apes, a greed of bankers.
Does anyone know from whence these come? Who came up with them? When did they come into use? Has anyone ever said "a murder of crows" just by-the-by, without thinking "I am so clever, I'll use the fancy term instead of just saying 'flock' like a normal person"?
It's fun to watch people's reactions when you say, "I saw a murder yesterday in my yard..."
Looks like it started in the 15th Century in The Book of St. Albans (containing such gems as 'a dopping of sheldrake') and people have been adding to the lists ever since, the latest effort by James Lipton (yes, THAT James Lipton) in his book An Exaltation of Larks. It also looks like it's always been about exercising one's wit than about cataloging actual use. One site quotes Lipton's book as coining the term 'a queue of actors' but I've also heard them called a complaint. Here's a good link on the subject:
Two of my new favorites:
A conspiracy of ravens.
An exaltation of larks.
I think there's a book out there that has a bunch of cool collective terms.
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