Amusing Examples of Collective Nouns

Will and Guy's Amusing Examples of Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are always interesting. Who ever was responsible for defining these group words clearly chose with care and humour.

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Quirky Examples of Collective Nouns

Many of us learned about collective nouns at school.  One of the many oddities of the English language is the multiplicity of different names given to collections or groups, be they animals, birds, people or things.  Many of these examples of collective nouns are evocative, and extremely clever.

You may have a distant memory of the common pairings, such as: a parliament of rooks; a run of poultry; a herd of bison; a pod of dolphins; a colony of ants; a swarm of bees; a school of cod; a shoal of herrings; a tribe of natives; a cortège of mourners and many, many others.

However, Will and Guy have thought up some new, different, amusing and perhaps quirky English collective nouns, hopefully, this list of collective nouns will make you smile!

  1. A jam of tarts
  2. A sentence of judges
  3. A load of cobblers
  4. An expectation of midwives
  5. An annoyance of neighbours
  6. A melody of violinists
  7. An impatience of wives
  8. A conflagration of arsonists
  9. An illusion of magicians
  10. A horde of misersExamples of Collective Nouns - An Exaggeration of fishermenFunny Collective NounsAn exaggeration of fishermen
  11. An exaggeration of fishermen
  12. A yearning of yesterdays
  13. A ponder of philosophers
  14. A nucleus of physicists
  15. A portfolio of stockbrokers
  16. A flush of plumbers
  17. A corps of anatomists
  18. A bodge of DIYers
  19. A scoop of journalists
  20. A decanter of publicans

More examples of collective nouns


Ten Out-takes of Funny Collective NounsA cuddle of teddy bears

  1. A cuddle of teddy bears
  2. A conjunction of grammarians
  3. A grasp of lawyers
  4. An obeisance of servants
  5. A staff of employees
  6. A fraid of ghosts
  7. A nastiness of villains
  8. A promise of tomorrows
  9. A prudence of vicars
  10. A clique of photographers

Will and Guy feel sure you could invent your own funny collective noun and send it to us.

A List of Collective Nouns Featuring Animals and People

About half of these assemblages are true, they are unlikely, but they are accepted as collective nouns.  The other half are funny collective nouns, but they don't actually exist on official lists - however much we wish they did.  See if you can separate the true examples of collective nouns from the false.  Check your answers here.

Will and Guy recommend

Flocks, Herds, Litters & Schools by Jim McMullan

Flocks Herds Litters and Schools

  • An absence of professors 
  • An aggregate of geologists 
  • An ambush of tigers
  • An army of frogs
  • An asylum of programmers 
  • A blessing of unicorns
  • A bloat of bureaucrats 
  • A brace of orthodontists 
  • A circus of monkeys 
  • A clowder of cats
  • A clutch of mechanics 
  • A complex of psychiatrists  
  • A crash of rhinoceroses
  • A corps of morticians 
  • A dilation of pupils  
  • A flush of plumbers   Cache of Jewels
  • A flutter of cardiologists  
  • A gaze of raccoons
  • A horde of savers 
  • An indifference of waitresses    
  • A labour of moles
  • A lot of second-hand car dealers 
  • A murder of crows
  • A nucleus of physicists 
  • A raffle of turkeys
  • A rake of mules
  • A tribe of goats
  • A thirst of Irish
  • An unkindness of ravens
  • A wake of buzzards
  • A walk of snails

Which of the above examples of animal collective nouns are true, and which are made-up?  Check your collective noun answers here

More Funny Clever and Clean Collective Nouns

We have gleaned these examples of collective nouns from The New Yorker Magazine and date back to the 1990s. Nonetheless they are funny, clever and amusing.

  • A plethora of lispers
  • A mingling of broken vases
  • A tenet of palindromes
  • A hotbed of quilts
  • A veneer of newscasters
  • A brace of orthodontists
  • A rash of dermatologists
  • A gaggle of censors [or comedians]
  • An amalgam of dentists
  • A cast of orthopaedists
  • A slew of retired hit men
  • A box of pugilists
  • A concert of yes men
  • A flash of paparazzi
  • A bunch of florists
  • A set of hairdressers
  • A herd of otologists*

*medical study of the ear

The Plain English Campaign


The Plain English Campaign is a group that has been fighting for crystal-clear communication since 1979. Consider some of these examples that made Guy and Will smile:

  • Take off lid and push up bottom. [From a stick deodorant label]
  • These guidelines are written in a matter-of-fact style that eschews jargon, the obscure and the insular. They are intended for use by the novice and the experienced alike. [From the United Kingdom Evaluation Society 'Guidelines for good practice in evaluation']
  • Thought grenade [Management jargon as found in Office Angels survey - means 'explosive, good ideas']
  • This is a genuine ground floor opportunity to shape a front line field force operating in a matrix structure. [As stated on the 'Take a Fresh Look at Wales' website]
  • The delay to this service is due to low adhesive conditions. [Otherwise known as 'slippery tracks', from First Scotrail]
  • The cause of the fire was due to a malicious ignition incident that was fortunately contained to the function and meeting room area of the hotel. [News statement about a fire at a hotel]
  • Its clear lines and minimalist design provide it with an unmistakable look. It is daring, and different. So that your writing instrument not only carries your message, but lives it. [Promotional literature for ... pens]
  • Where the policy is divided into a number of distinct arrangements ('Arrangements') where benefits are capable of being taken from on Arrangement or group of Arrangements separately from other Arrangements, then this policy amendment will not apply to any Arrangements in respect of which the relevant policy proceeds have already been applied to provide benefits. The policy amendment will apply to all other Arrangements under the policy. [Policy amendment, Norwich Union]

Plain English Awards: The Worst Offenders

The Plain English Campaign has announced the winners of its Golden Bull award for incomprehensible gobbledygook. Here, Will and Guy bring you their top ten of the worst examples.

  1. UK Department of Health website
    Primary prevention includes health promotion and requires action on the determinants of health to prevent disease occurring. It has been described as refocusing upstream to stop people falling in the waters of disease.
    Translation: Doctors can prevent disease before it occurs.
  2. Patient Access to Electronic Records Limited
    ... I arrive at my GP, only to be told that I haven't until I converse with a screen that invites me to 'Touch the screen to arrive'. My electronic check-in is completed by touching a virtual button labeled 'arrive me'.
    Translation: When I visit my GP, I need to touch a screen twice to check-in.
  3. Lord Mandelson on MPs' expenses [this year's winner of the Foot in Mouth award]
    Perhaps we need not more people looking round more corners but the same people looking round more corners more thoroughly to avoid the small things detracting from the big things the Prime Minister is getting right.
    Translation: MPs don't need more scrutiny, just better scrutiny.
  4. Equity Red Star Insurance motor insurance schedule
    Any endorsement number shown in this schedule but not included in the endorsement appendix shall be deemed to apply and form part of the appendix the endorsements bearing such number(s) being attached or previously applied.
    Translation: Endorsements listed here still apply, even if they're not in the appendix.
  5. Dublin Airport Authority contractors' agreement
    (c) Neither the execution and delivery by the Consultant of this Agreement nor the consummation by it of any of the transactions contemplated hereby, requires, with respect to it, the consent or approval of the giving of notice to, the registration, with the record or filing of any document with, or the taking of any other action in respect of any government authority, except such as are not yet required (as to which it has no reason to believe that the same will not be readily obtainable in the ordinary course of business upon due application therefore) or which have been duly obtained and are in full force and effect.
    Translation: This contract is bulletproof. Get on with the job.
  6. LSIS (Learning and Skills Improvement Service) consultation booklet [They ought to know better say Will and Guy]
    The government calls insistently for more innovation. But doing things in a new way will not necessarily lead to better outcomes. So, what do we mean by innovation? We share the thinking of, for example, the Work Foundation, which sees innovation not 'as a set of discrete and singular moments of change' but rather as 'a culture or process in which drivers of change are embedded in and facilitated by the strategic outlook of the organisation'.
    To draw an analogy from nature, innovation may be thought of as the new season's growth rather than a series of isolated bright ideas.
    Translation: Change is, like, a state of mind, you know?
  7. US Internal Revenue Service tax form
    W-8BEN Certificate of Foreign status of beneficial owner for United States Tax Withholding
    Hybrid entity - a hybrid entity is any person (other than an individual) that is treated as fiscally transparent in the US...
    Reverse hybrid entity - a reverse hybrid entity is any person (other than an individual) that is not fiscally transparent under US tax law principles...
    Fiscally transparent entity...
    Disregarded entity...
    Translation: To quote the writer Bill Bryson: "In the space marked 'Tax Due', write a very large figure."
  8. Coca Cola letter to distributors
    To outsource some aspects of our finance transactional processing activities... we will be transitioning certain transactional activities... there will be two primary impacts to your organisation... does not impact your current terms... aiming to minimise any disruption to our business, and we expect our performance levels to stabilise soon after the transition period.
    Translation: We're changing our payment arrangements. Here's how it affects you.
  9. JMJ Associates employee health and safety document
    Principle 4: IIF begins with a conversation for possibility... In the domain of safety, we have found people often do not distinguish between the conversations for possibility and conversations for probability, two vastly different conversations that produce vastly different results. Conversations for probability are common in organisational life, and they help predict the future based on what has occurred in the past. Conversations for possibility are much less common and they help us create futures that we could not have predicted from the past, something 'making the impossible possible'. The language of probability owns the mind and the language of possibility owns the heart; once the heart has embraced what is possible, the mind will never see things the same again."
    Translation: We know the building probably won't catch fire, but it might, and you should prepare for it.
  10. Balaclava Public School letter to parents about making iced cupcakes
    Dear Parent/Guardians,
    The Grade 7 Science classes are nearing the completion for the unit Pure Substances and Mixtures. In this unit, students have been introduced to the Particle Theory of Matter, and to some of the terminology related to the field of chemistry. They have also been given the opportunity to explore, and conduct experiments related to the properties of solutions and mechanical mixtures.
    At this time all students are encouraged to discuss with you the content and expectations of the culminating task along with how it will be assessed. This culminating task allows students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills that he/she has learned throughout the module. Although students are responsible to independently complete this task, we would very much appreciate your assistance for the experimenting component, as students require access to a kitchen and some ingredients to develop their own mixture.
    Thank you in advance for your interest and co-operation.
    Translation: Your children are going to be making iced cupcakes in your kitchen.

And One More For Luck:
American Airlines
'Property Irregularity Receipt'
Translation: We've lost your luggage.

Britain's Most Irritating Expressions

A top ten of the most annoying expressions has been compiled by researchers at Oxford University in England. Top of the list was 'at the end of the day', followed by 'fairly unique', reports the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

'I personally' a phrase described by BBC Radio 4 presenter and journalist, John Humphreys, as the 'linguistic equivalent of having chips with rice' was third.

Also making the top ten is the grammatically incorrect 'shouldn't of', instead of 'shouldn't have'.

The phrases appear in a book called Damp Squid, named after the mistake of confusing a squid with a squib. The researchers who compiled the list monitor the use of phrases in a database called the Oxford University Corpus, which comprises books, papers, magazines, broadcast, the internet and other sources.

The book's author Jeremy Butterfield says many annoyingly over-used expressions actually began as office lingo, such as 24/7 and 'synergy'. He added, 'We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often: an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism, and the same seems to happen with some language.'


The 10 Most Irritating Phrases in Full:

  1. At the end of the day
  2. Fairly unique
  3. I personally
  4. At this moment in time
  5. With all due respect
  6. Absolutely
  7. It's a nightmare
  8. Shouldn't of
  9. 24/7
  10. It's not rocket science

Will and Guy would love to know the expressions which bug and annoy you. Please send them to us for inclusion on the site.

Less Is Not Fewer? - Tesco Clear Up

Tesco supermarket has bowed to pressure from the Plain English Campaign and scrapped checkout signs reading, 'Ten items or less.'

Critics insist that the signs should read: 'Ten items or fewer.' Tesco has side-stepped a complicated grammatical debate by changing the signs to: 'Up to 10 items.'

Another Slant on the Campaign for Plain English

Football SpeakSteve McClaren has won a prize - for speaking nonsense

Steve McClaren has won a prize - for speaking nonsense.  The former England manager scooped the Plain English Campaign's Foot in Mouth award for a comment about Wayne Rooney, the Manchester United and England forward.

'He is inexperienced, but he's experienced in terms of what he's been through,' McClaren said.

Will and Guy muse on football manager speak in general, and it's effect on England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 in particular.  Do the players understand their manager's jargon - but ignore it.  Or do they understand what he is saying, but are unable to act on the instructions.  Then there's the interpretation favoured by the fans, the manager does not know what he is talking about.  See more football speak

Then There Is the 'Leaves on the track' cause célèbre

Other culprits singled out by the campaign, which works to stamp out unclear official information, included Translink in Northern Ireland.

Apologising for recent delays, it said, 'Every autumn a combination of leaves on the line, atmospheric conditions and prevailing damp conditions lead to a low adhesion between the rail head and the wheel which causes services to be delayed or even cancelled.'

The company added that it was committed to reducing delays by 'implementing a comprehensive low adhesion action programme.'

Airport Signs

BAA [British Airports Authority] also received a Golden Bull award for its 'Passenger shoe repatriation area', sign, found at London Gatwick airport in the place where shoes are screened by security.

Recent Additions To Our Funny Noun Assemblage

  • A bloat of hippopotamuses (hippopotami sounds better)
  • A clutch of kleptomaniacs
  • A flunk of Students

Please send us you examples of funny collective nouns.

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Oxymoron examples   • Funny Words   • Cool foreign words   • Illogical English   • English jokes

Funny children's names   • Examples of collective nouns   • Animal collective nouns   • Neologism

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