Gotta collect them all!

11 December 2004

The Wikipedia List of collective nouns for non-human mammals is notable, not only for its comprehensiveness, but also for raising the question: who the hell decides these things? The UN? Some transnational organisation? Or is it up to the whims of individual nations? My God, wars could break out over whether beavers congregate in lodges or colonies.

Some fascinating, bound to come up in a pub quiz near you-type trivia there. Polar bears are grouped in an aurora, rhinoceroses are organised in a crash, a load of porpoises are a turmoil, and most pleasingly of all, a collection of baboons is called a flange.


One Response

According to Stephen Fry on Qi, flange was invented as a collective noun for baboons by someone like Richard Curtis for the famous Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch where Rowan Atkinson dressed up in a baboon costume and was interviewed on a chat show. Since then it’s drifted into widespread use, including academia (Stephen Fry quoted a recent academic study of baboons that used the term). Marvellous.