From a giggle of girls to an infirmary of punchlines

Columnist June 13, 2014

A few weeks ago in this space, I observed that the best word for a group of teenage girls is not a “gaggle” but a “giggle.” Immediately, I got an e-mail from readers Nancy and Richard Downing, who added two more of their own: a “slouch” of teenage boys and a “shuffle” of octogenarians.

Species-specific collective nouns have been an occasional source of public amusement since the publication of “An Exaltation of Larks,” a 1968 book about ancient, colorful, little-known collective terms for groups of animals. They were invented by 15th-century fops who sat around amusing themselves with terms like a “murder” of crows, a “parliament” of owls or an “ostentation” of peacocks.

Gene Weingarten is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writes "Below the Beltway," a weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. View Archive

Modern takeoffs occasionally pop up, though many are tedious. To date, the most creative appeared in a 1993 Washington Post Style Invitational humor contest. (Ex.: A “proliferation”
of abortion protesters. A “Congress” of hot-air balloons.)

Twenty years is too long. It’s time for more:

(Eric Shansby)

A CONDESCENSION of literati.

A CONFEDERACY of racists.

A WHOLE LOT of used-car salesmen.

An ABUNDANCE OF RICHES of cliches.

A VIRGINITY of comic-book collectors.

An INDEX of urologists.

A SNOTGOBBLE of toddlers.

A SPECULATION of gynecologists.

A PANTSLOAD of “creation scientists.”

A WHOMSOEVER of grammarians.

An ARMADA of Hindu gods.

A BROOD of Sartre scholars.

A MEANDER of tourists.

A GROSS of used Kleenex.

A HUMP of dogs.

An EXCRUCIATION of webinars.

An ENTITLEMENT of millennials.

A WHATCHAMACALLIT of senior citizens.

A CLIQUE of phishing scammers.

A REDUNDANCY of thesauruses.

A BODY of starlets.

A FACTION of trivia specialists.

A TRANSPARENCY of comb-overs.

A LILT of IT customer-service specialists.

A ~ of surrealists.

A SANCTIMONIUM of home-school advocates.

A JUDICIARY of Talmudic scholars.

A CASSEROLE of Iowans.

A COLONY of proctologists.

An EXPECTORATION of baseball players.

A CIRCUMSPECTION of mohels.

A DEFENESTRATION of frogs.

A HACKERY of humor columnists.

Contributing to this list were Caitlin Gibson, Holly Morris, William Koper, Monica Hesse, Rachel Manteuffel, Charles Lane and Robert McCartney.

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