There are two things I want to take a quick look at today, and the title above somewhat gives the game away. Both of these topics are the result of conversations with friends, and as other bloggers reading this will know sometimes in regular conversation a little light will come on in the dark recesses of the brain and you begin to think “You know what, there might well be some good blog material in this”! The first of these conversations came about one night when my wife Emily and I were watching our Bearded Dragons at play in their wooded wonderland. We were trying to recall if either of us knew what the collective noun is for lizards. If you’re interested, or even if you’re not, it turns out that whilst Bearded Dragons do not have a specific collective noun for their species like some lizards do (for example, a group of Iguanas is called a Mess of Iguanas!) they can be collectively referred to as the somewhat awesome Lounge of Lizards!!!
As I was looking this up later that night, I saw that there are a number of cool collective nouns for animal types – some we’ll all be familiar with such as a Pride of Lions, of a Flock of Seagulls, but also some more ‘out there’ names such as a Weyr of Dragons or a Creep of Tortoises. This in turn got me thinking about other things we could use a collective noun for, to help us refer to multiples of something. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few I came up with to give you an idea of just what I’m talking about:-
- A Wobble of Drunkards – We’ve all seen drunk people trying with varying degrees of success to walk home whilst hammered. Sometimes, however, they will realise their lack of motor co-ordination and seek to lean on other drunks who are also struggling to walk straight, in some vain hope that communally they can support each other and make walking easier. In fact you now have a larger mass of drunk human, attempting to navigate itself on four or more legs, operating independently of both each other and the brains seeking to control them. In this manner they hence cease to be drunks and become a Wobble.
“James was heading home just fine, but suddenly found his way obstructed by a Wobble of Drunkards spilling out of a nearby bar”.
- A Vice of Waiters – The Waiter is most often a solitary creature, stalking the delta of the restaurant floor like a gazelle, looking for the chance to spring lustfully toward anyone looking remotely in need of assistance. On occasion though, waiters will band together in a grouping know as a Vice. This can be because the group sense a perceived threat (a Mr. Creosote, if you will) or a significant reward (a heavy tipping customer etc.). More often though, a Vice occurs when waiters get older and more infirm and begin to lose cognitive reasoning powers or spatial awareness, or sometimes as their spirits become slowly but inevitably crushed by the hideous monotony of their existence. When a Vice occurs, one can find oneself bombarded by repeated visits from multiple waiters to your table, as they mill in a confusion over who is fetching the wine, where the bread has got to, and whether they need to ask for a 37th time if everything is all right with your meal.
“Jen had been enjoying a lovely blind date, until she suddenly found herself caught in a Vice of Waiters. Now she could barely get a word in edgeways”.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: IMPORTANT] While the collective noun ‘Vice’ is often also used when referring to waitresses, the context is significantly different, and should be avoided in polite conversation, church, and most importantly within earshot of a waitress. As a man who works with women frequently carrying pots of hot coffee, and whose work uniform leaves his genitals covered by nothing than a thin layer of polycotton, you can take my word on this.
- A Scythe of Beauticians – Those women (and men) who work in the beauty industry, be they make-up specialists or hairdressers or personal shoppers, are by-and-large lovely people, who spend their working days doing their very best to make the rest of us look smarter, sexier and more appealing. Except in my case, where they have failed on an epic scale. Be that as it may, we can but applaud these wonderful people who specialise in making others happy. However, you must be careful not to approach multiple beauticians when they are talking to one another in a social context. This grouping, or Scythe as it is known, is where beauticians come together to drop the whiter-than-white smiles and the complimentary speech, and bitch about their customers like a bunch of jackals going at a bit of zebra liver. The collective term comes from the scythe-like ability of such a group to cut down another human’s self-confidence in mere seconds, using nothing more than scathing observations about last seasons jeans and a haughty dismissal of an inferior complexion to reduce their victim to a tearful, blubbering wreck.
“Tammy had only gone in to get her roots retouched, but the poor dear had accidentally walked straight into a Scythe of Hairdressers, and, well… we didn’t see her at church again for nearly a month”.
- A Tempest of Housewives – There was never a truer phrase coined than “Behind every great man is a great woman”. Any husband will tell you how important his wife is to him, and he’d damn well better do it loudly and frequently too, just in case she’s listening. One thing housewives like to do when they get together is gossip, and there is nothing wrong with that – critical observation and verbal discussion are perfectly natural forms of human social interaction. However, given enough housewives in any one gossiping group, or if particularly skilled gossips are present, there is a chance that a Tempest of Gossipers may form. In this occurrence, the force of so much hot air being expelled in such a short space of time causes a whirlwind singularity, and cutlery, small ornaments and unsecured infants have been known to be sucked in and vapourised.
“…And in breaking news tonight, police report that the West Virginian trailer park thought to have been devastated by a freak tornado of unusual power may actually have been the victim of a Tempest of Gossipers. More on this, but first here’s Cybill with the sport”.
Hopefully you get the idea now, because I want to hear from you if you think YOU have a good collective noun we can add to the collection! Let’s get a few going in the comments section and maybe we can compile a book, which we can then publish on the Internet and make a fortune from, so that
I can steal the lot and move to Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s former home on Jamaica we can all benefit from it!!
Right, the other part of this ‘fun with words’ blog today is all about spare names, and is inspired by, but is in no way a legally actionable direct rip-off from, a concept by Douglas Adams, creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. He wrote a wonderful pocket-sized black book called The Meaning of Liff. The premise was this; in England as elsewhere, we have a great many place names which we use to refer to geographic areas – towns, cities and so forth. These words are not used for anything else other than as names. At the same time, in this ever evolving society of ours we are constantly discovering new things and creating new items and situations which we need some way of referring to. So Douglas Adams combined the two, and wrote a dictionary of things that needed words, and assigned them to place names. This might sound confusing, so let me give you a couple of examples (from the top of my head so forgive me if the definitions are not word-perfect!).
Wimbledon (home of tennis and a borough of London) ; A Wimbledon is the last drop which, no matter how hard you shake, will always drip on your trouser leg.
Bures (a town just outside Manchester) ; Bures are the scabs, found on knees and elbows, caused by continually making love on cheap quality floor tiling.
I’ve always loved this book, although I seem to have mislaid my copy (!) so here are a few that, as before, I made up myself, all of which feature place names from around the Isle of Wight…
Newport ; A Newport is the residual erection left immediately following sexual intercourse. “I couldn’t believe it – we’d only just got dressed when her mother walked in and there I am sporting a huge Newport!”.
Ventnor ; Someone who is suspected of being sexually deviant, despite a lack of corroborating proof. “He reckons he’s buying all that baby oil for a skin condition, but I reckon he’s a bit Ventnor”.
Ryde ; The visible discolouration of underwear caused by repeated soiling and washing, esp. where the underwear has been kept long past it’s throw-by date. “Oh God!! I thought that guy from the club last night was SO hot, but when he stripped off there was a massive Ryde in his pants!! I pretended I’d got my period and bailed on that sucker!”.
Shanklin ; A less violent form of shanking, the act of stabbing using an improvised weapon. Flicking the ear with a ruler, firing paper clips at people and shooting with staple guns are all accepted as forms of giving someone a Shanklin. “He’d been bugging me all morning, so I chewed up a bit of paper and spat it at him through a drinking straw. Right between the eyes!! He never saw that Shanklin coming!!”.
Shalfleet ; Any compliment paid to another when the reverse is actually meant. “Did you hear that bitch tell me she loved my dress earlier?!! I’ve never heard a more blatant Shalfleet as I live and breathe!!”
Oakfield ; A person widely acknowledged by all and sundry to be a thieving little bastard. The type of person one might be forced to associate with but you never take your eye off. “I can’t believe Sam was surprised his bike got stolen – everyone knows that thieving little bastard is as Oakfield as they come”.
Whippingham ; Someone who exhibits physical manifestations of their wealth in an attempt to look important to others. Especially appropriate of those who have newly come into their fortunes, such as trust-fund kids and lottery winners. “Charlie was always one of the boys, you know?? But then he won all that cash on the Lottery, and now he’s turned into a right Whippingham. Shame really..”.
I love playing around with words and honestly could just sit here and make these up all day, but that would become a long and tortuous blog and my wife doesn’t want to have to shave me and bedbath me while I write (I asked – it’s definitely no, apparently) so once again, if any of YOU want to come up with definitions either for place names near you, or indeed anywhere, then please post your suggestions up in the comments section!! And if you can find a copy of The Meaning of Liff, I strongly urge you to buy/rent/borrow/steal/teach a bunch of trained monkeys with typewriters to recreate a copy of it at your earliest convenience. Tune in next time to discover why I am beginning to fear my children have been smarter than I ever believed all along, and how they could revolutionise my life. Until then, take care of yourselves – and each other 😉