Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Colletive* (for Collective*)

I once told a date that I hated having to change someone's name midstream, as it were. I said I was like a "baby duck" in that way; whatever name I "imprinted on" was the one I'd be inclined to follow forever. (He waffled on his own preferred variant, but immediately started calling me "Baby Duck" and continues to do so to this day.) For example, I have a hard time adjusting to "married names" and find myself faintly disapproving when a person of longtime nomenclature suddenly decides to take a nickname or other "alternative" moniker without a very good reason. I've known my share of flaky and/or PC pseudonomists, but will pointedly exclude Zephyr Rain Teachout (the winds-of-change challenger to New York governor Andrew Cuomo and one who wants to throw out the new teaching standard known as the Common Core) because that's the actual name her Vermont parents gave her at birth. (Teachout is an old Dutch surname.) The collective noun (or "term of venery") for a group of ducks is a "paddling," which is sort of cute in a "cuz that's what do they do!" sort of way, but not nearly as funny as the one I would personally nominate if this were up for a vote. I'd like it to be a "charlatan of ducks," from a recent article on Slate about the way too many desperate college applicants, plus students trying to avoid charges of plagiarism, are succumbing to the temptation of MS Word's "right-click thesaurus." One poor clicking cluck wrote of hearing the "charlatan" of ducks in the distance, as that word had appeared there as a synonym for quack. Some other collective favorites include: a glaring of cats; a murder of crows; a memory of elephants; a business of ferrets; a charm of finches; a bloat of hippopotamuses; a scold of jays; a deceit of lapwings; a kindle of kittens; a barren of mules; a superfluity of nuns; a poverty of pipers; a gaze of raccoons; and a clutter of spiders. And ladies, remember, next time you're surrounded by a superfluity of men, just lean in and picture them as a "blush of boys" and see if that doesn't put your name on the map. (And while we're at it, perhaps we should start calling ourselves a girder, a girth, or even a girn, of girls!) Colletive* (which should really be called collective*) was found three times in OhioLINK, and 137 times in WorldCat.

(My own shot of a "charlatan" of ducks, paddling across the pool at the Empire State Plaza.)

Carol Reid

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