Susie Dent is, as far as I am concerned, the best thing on Twitter. Some of you will doubtlessly already follow her, if you don’t, you should go do that, it’s cool, I’ll wait here for you.
I first came across Susie Dent thanks to Countdown (a British gameshow which has been on our screens since 1982). Susie been a resident of “dictionary corner” since 1992, acting as an adjudicator for the word rounds; plus, in each episode she shares a story on the origin of a particular word or phrase.
On Twitter she shares words which have fallen out of use (but we should definitely return to the lexicon), trivia, and etymology:
This year she started a podcast: Something Rhymes with Purple, with Giles Brandreth.
I listened to an episode last night about collective nouns.
A collective noun is the word used to denote a group. Examples include: an army of ants, a caravan of camels, and a parliament of owls.
I was surprised to learn that there is no ‘official’ collective noun for anything. Collective nouns have simply be coined by various people over time, and, if they’re adopted widely enough, they enter into common usage.
As a result, collective nouns act as a sort of social commentary – they highlight how people at various points in time felt about particular groups of people or things.
In the podcast Dent shared some examples:
a superfluity of nuns
According to Dent, this dates back to when unmarried women of a certain age, (deemed to be ‘unmarriable’), would be encouraged to join an order of nuns. This led to an awful lot of nuns – hence the collective noun: superfluity.
Other telling collective nouns include:
a skulk of friars
an abomination of monks
Language constantly evolves and changes – new words and phrases enter our lexicon, words fall out of favour, and definitions change over time. As such, Dent and Brandreth encourage people to create new collective nouns; I particularly enjoyed these:
a foot-hurt of lego
a compliment of sycophants
an odium of politicians
I had a bash at making up some of my own:
a self-aggrandisement of LinkedIn posts
a mercenary of Instagram influencers
an insincerity of humblebrags
My head went straight to the negative, huh? Here are some more positive ones:
a kindness of librarians
a dedication of NHS workers
a rumination of writers
This turned into a fun creative exercise, if you too enjoy wordplay, I’d definitely recommend you give it a go.
As for me, I think that’s quite enough qiddling for one day, it’s quafftide.
For the curious, an explanation courtesy of Dent can be found below: