As a child I was under the impression that there were in fact very few collective nouns and that there was a strict rule about their use. Grazing animals "herds" (but flock for sheep) birds always flocks, scavenging dog-like animals packs, lions were weird "prides" you were a smarty if you knew that one.
In recent years I keep hearing these odd collective nouns and wonder if it's just some internet-based joke. a murder of crows, a shrewdness of apes, a business of ferrets.
Is this a joke, or are they authentic?
Fran
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As a child I was under the impression that there were in fact very few collective nouns and that there ... a murder of crows, a shrewdness of apes, a business of ferrets. Is this a joke, or are they authentic?

It's a joke, but a very old one, going back to about 1450 at least. The classic reference is James Lipton, An Exaltation of Larks .

David
As a child I was under the impression that there were in fact very few collective nouns and that there ... you were a smarty if you knew that one. . . . Is this a joke, or are they authentic?

It is not a joke, internet-based or otherwise:
many of these collective nouns are authentic.
Our problem today is that the best book on
the theme (An Exaltation of Larks, by James
Lipton, 1968) also includes many new inventions,
joke collectives etc.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
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As a child I was under the impression that there ... . . Is this a joke, or are they authentic?

It is not a joke, internet-based or otherwise: many of these collective nouns are authentic. Our problem today is that the best book on the theme (An Exaltation of Larks, by James Lipton, 1968) also includes many new inventions, joke collectives etc.

There is a fairly recent collective noun that might have already be discussed in these ngs if so, my apologies.
A group of baboons, gorillas, or such like is now called a "flange". I understand that the word was introduced as a joke in a British TV comedy. It has now been adopted for serious use by baboonologists, or whatever they call themselves.

Peter Duncanson
UK (posting from a.e.u)
As a child I was under the impression that there were in fact very few collective nouns and that there ... flocks, scavenging dog-like animals packs, lions were weird "prides" you were a smarty if you knew that one.

Animals are the most complex part of the English language. Groups of animals a pack, pride, flock, float, fight, gaggle, etc. And the young kit, pup, kitten, lamb, calf, colt, etc. When faced with a new animal, we are usually able to eliminate many of the words, but there are generally more than one which will apply.
I suggest that you stick to a single adult ferret. ;-)

GFH
As a child I was under the impression that there ... you were a smarty if you knew that one.

Animals are the most complex part of the English language. Groups of animals a pack, pride, flock, float, fight, ... are generally more than one which will apply. I suggest that you stick to a single adult ferret. ;-) GFH

Well, I'd like someone to explain the thinking surrounding the naming of male and female ferrets, and their young. Seriously odd.

Fran
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Well, I'd like someone to explain the thinking surrounding the naming of male and female ferrets, and their young. Seriously odd.

Well, you might have told us what those names are, because I haven't a clue. I've a feeling the young might be called kittens, but I wouldn't bet that I'm right.

Mark Barratt
Angoltan=E1r budapesten
http://www.geocities.com/nyelvmark
Well, I'd like someone to explain the thinking surrounding the naming of male and female ferrets, and their young. Seriously odd.

Well, you might have told us what those names are, because I haven't a clue. I've a feeling the young might be called kittens, but I wouldn't bet that I'm right.

Hobs, jills and kits. In that order.

David
==
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Well, I'd like someone to explain the thinking surrounding the naming of male and female ferrets, and their young. Seriously odd.

Well, you might have told us what those names are, because I haven't a clue. I've a feeling the young might be called kittens, but I wouldn't bet that I'm right. Mark Barratt Angoltan=E1r budapesten http://www.geocities.com/nyelvmark

A "jill" was a female, a "hob" a male and a "kit" one of the young. Kit is a bit like "kid" and if you think of ME "c'ild" (IIRC) for the offspring, one can see that as prefiguring kid, but the others seem weird.
Fran
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