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Friday, 15 August 2014

Workshop Idea: An Enjoyability of Collective Nouns

Animal House (published in My Grandpa's Beard)
  
There’s an ARMY of HERRINGS in my bath
And a BEVY of OTTERS too
There’s a BOOGLE of WEASELS
Under my easel
And an IMPLAUSIBILITY of GNUS.

There’s a LAMENTATION of SWANS
And a MURMERATION of STARLINGS
And a MURDER of CROWS
In my sink.
There’s a FLAMBOYANCE of FLAMINGOS
In my underwear drawer,
Which is rather odd, I think!

There’s  PARCEL of PENGUINS in my fridge
And a SHIVER of SHARKS in my bowl,
There’s  a MOB of MEERKATS under the rug
Along with a LABOUR of MOLES.

There’s a PARLIAMENT of OWLS
And a PANDEMONIUM of PARROTS
And a KNOB of TOADS
On my pillow,
And in my boxes
There’s  SKULK of FOXES
And a HOOVER of ARMADILLOS.

Lying in my bed
So still they’re almost dead
There’s a LAZINESS of SLOTHS,
And if you open up my shed
They’ll be flying round your head –
A UNIVERSE of MOTHS!

I’ve a BIKE of WASPS in my trousers,
Nibbling at my bottom,
While a COALITION of CHEETAHS
Chase a DAZZLE of ZEBRAS
Down the hall – I think they got ‘em!
And into my toilet I dare not go –
There’s an OBSTINACY of BUFFALO...

A COMMITTEE of VULTURES circles the ceiling
And if you want to know how I’m really feeling,
Well, I like my varied company
But the thing I most like to do
is to go down the road
and to look at the CROWD of HUMANS
In the zoo.


Believe it or not, every single collective noun in the above poem is real! However, we can see that collective nouns are very peculiar things, and it might be a fun activity to make up your own. Start by picking a theme. My poem uses animals; the poem below by Joe Coelho talks about swimming pools:


Next, write a list of items associated with your selected theme. For example, if the theme was 'school', you might write 'children', 'teachers', 'books', 'classrooms' and 'wall displays'. Finally, for each item, make up a collective noun! These could either be bizarre words that sound like nothing else in the English language, like some of those in my poem, or real words that are somehow related to what they are talking about, like those in Joe's. Here are some of my examples:

A yell of children
A stress of teachers
A knowledge of books
A rainbow of wall displays
A clock-watch of lessons
A yum of lunches
A canon of footballs
A whirligig of games
A growl of arguments
A kaleidoscope of friends


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