Editor David Helms and I spend time talking about things that don’t matter. It’s part of our unique skill set as men of letters, just a nail in the inestimable contribution we hammer into the framework of Pontotoc each week. 

Said editor and I were philosophizing late last week, when I noticed a bunch of jabbering, squawking crows in the tree outside Regina Butler’s window, just north of our office.

“That’s a murder of crows,” I informed Helms. Maybe they were just blackbirds. Are they the same thing?

“Huh?” the editor responded, always astute and incisive.  

“A murder of crows,” I repeated. “A group of crows is called a murder. Are you sure you went to Ole Miss?”

“You’re kidding,” said editor interjected, nonplussed. 

“I wouldn’t kid about a think like that,” I said. “What gets said on the phone, in cubicles, and gets printed each day is one thing. The natural world demands a purer degree of poetry.”

The conversation started me thinking about other cool, odd names for groups of animals. 

We all know a pride of lions, or a gaggle of geese, but the fun names aren’t part of our usual, coffee house banter. 

Who knew that a group of otters is called a romp? Isn’t that great? I’m going to shoehorn that into a news story before they shovel dirt on me.

A scurry of squirrels would be exciting to see. 

Sports folk would love to see a crash of rhinoceroses, or a thunder of elephants.

Sharped-tongued socialites will enjoy knowing that a group of porcupines is called a prickle. 

Every third team in the country is named the tigers. An ambush or steak of tigers is acceptable. 

The names get cooler as they go along.

Dan Marino was my favorite football player when I was a kid. Take your pick, either a herd—or, my personal preference--a turmoil of porpoises is the correct nomenclature. 

A pod of whales sounds friendly and nonthreatening. 

This one is great, very Columbo--a conspiracy of lemurs. 

Birders know that a group of Martins is called a richness. 

We say this almost every day, but who knew that a barrel of monkeys is the right term—that, or a troop. 

A mob of kangaroos, a trip of goats, and a business of ferrets all sound vaguely menacing, as do a cauldron of bats, a cete of badgers, and a shrewdness of apes. 

For us Progress folk, in our bucolic surroundings, a pace of donkeys sounds friendlier. Perhaps a labor of moles, or a skulk of foxes. 

At the Progress, we acknowledge all the contemporary monikers. We’re politically and creaturely correct. We welcome and embrace all herds, thunders, conspiracies, troops, skulks, and crashes.

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