Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A conspiracy of ravens, an unkindness of ravens, a constable of ravens

Terms from the 16th century:
a shrewdness of apes
a pace of asses
a cete of badgers
a sloth of bears
a fleet of birds,
a dissimulation of (small) birds
a blush of boys
a clowder or glaring of cats;
a dowt or destruction of wild cats
a peep of chickens
a chattering or clattering of choughs
a drunkship of cobblers
a rag or rake of colts
a hastiness of cooks
a covert of coots
a cowardice of curs
a dole, or piteousness of doves
a paddling of ducks on water
a business of ferrets
a chirm of finches
a stalk of foresters
a skulk of foxes
a husk or down of hares
an observance of hermits
a siege of herons
a mute of hounds
a desert of lapwing
an exaltation of larks
a leap of leopards
a pride of lions
a tiding of magpies
a sord or sute (=suit) of mallard
a richesse of martens
a faith of merchants
a labour of moles
a barren of mules
a watch of nightingales
a superfluity of nuns
a muster of peacocks
a malapertness (=impertinence) of pedlars
a congregation of plovers
a pity of prisoners
an unkindness of ravens
a parliament or building of rooks
a dopping of sheldrake
a walk of snipe
a host of sparrows
a murmuration of starlings
a sounder of tame swine
a drift of wild swine
a glozing (=fawning) of taverners
a spring of teal
a rout of wolves
a fall of woodcock

A female cat is called a quean.

Other terms:
ants: colony
bears: sleuth, sloth
bees: grist, hive, swarm
birds: flight, volery
cattle: drove
cats: clutter, clowder
chicks: brood, clutch
clams: bed
cranes: sedge, seige
crows: murder
doves: dule
ducks: brace, team
elephants: herd
elks: gang
finches: charm
fish: school, shoal, draught
foxes: leash, skulk
geese: flock, gaggle, skein, arrow
gnats: cloud, horde
goats: trip
gorillas: band
hares: down, husk
hawks: cast
hens: brood
hogs: drift
horses: pair, team
hounds: cry, mute, pack
kangaroos: troop, mob
kittens: kindle, litter
larks: exaltation
lions: pride
locusts: plague
magpies: tidings
mules: span
nightingales: watch
oxen: yoke
oysters: bed
parrots: company
partridges: covey
peacocks: muster, ostentation
pheasants: nest, bouquet
pigs: litter
ponies: string
quail: bevy, covey
rabbits: nest
seals: pod
sheep: drove, flock
sparrows: host
storks: mustering
swans: bevy, wedge
swine: sounder
toads: knot
turkeys: rafter
turtles: bale
vipers: nest
whales: gam, pod
wolves: pack, rout
woodcocks: fall

I have been thinking about animals, extinction, language, extinction, the connections. The ice is melting. The lights are being doused. Polar bears and hippos have made it onto the shortlist. Frogs are the canaries in the coal mines. People, our heat, is suffocating out life forms. Exhaust. Exhaustion.
An exhaustion of automobiles.
A melt of poles.
A boneyard of extinctions.
A snuffing of candles.
We're not set apart from this. Ultimately, we're going, too.
A dissipation of beings.

Remember how, in Frosty the Snowman, he has to go home before he melts, and it is really scary and sad, because Frosty is dying, and it's a race against time, but once he makes it to the land of eternal snow, he's fine--he can live FOREVER?
Not anymore, nope.
Nothing lasts.
A sunset world.


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