Monday, October 24, 2011

A what of what?

I have discovered that I am not a serious birder. Maybe that should be Serious Birder, a separate species in the genus Ornithophilus. The other day I put out a query to our local bird fraternity/sorority asking if anyone could supply me with the correct noun of assembly (collective noun) for a flock of Pheasants. Via google, I had tracked down a nye, a bouquet, a head, a warren and a nide, none of which I had ever heard before. The question provoked a short string but no satisfactory answer. One response stopped me in my tracks, a scathing dismissal of the whole idea of collective nouns for birds. Many of these nouns are Victorian coinages, many of them not used, but some of them very appropriate and still used by some of us, eg, "a charm of goldfinches" or "a gaggle of geese". But the scathing dismisser asserted that "serious birders despise this sort of nonsense", or words to that effect..
Serious birders, I take it, are a humourless prosaic bunch, who have forgotten that watching birds is a hobby, a source of harmless amusement, in other words, FUN. Oh dear, I am sure that another characteristic of the serious birder is that s/he has great aural and visual acuity and is therefore able - or wants to be able - to identify every bird that flies up, flits across, farts and fcuks off again.
When my sight and hearing were better than they are now, I suppose I was obsessed in the same way, but, honestly, I never lost my sense of joy in watching birds, reading about birds, and even amassing a list of the collective nouns of various bird species.
So there you are. I am not Ornithophilus severus. I am a member of that other species Ornithophilus frivolus. Frankly, anyone who does not get a buzz from a collective noun like "a tok of capercaillie" is missing the meaning of life. I'm serious.

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