Apparently the Sami people have one thousand words to describe reindeer, a bit like the Irish have for rain which means we have a lot of it. And we have had ample opportunity lately to recognise the differences between, say, downpour, drizzle, mizzle, stair-rods and cats and dogs. So, when I saw this gathering of mallards at the lake yesterday I wondered what a whole lot of ducks might be called.
It turns out that the name depends on where the ducks are at the time. On land, as these are, I might have referred to them as a safe, sord, sore, waddling, badling, or twack. Two would be a brace, and any number of ducklings a brood. On water they would be a bunch, if idle – a raft, if diving – a dopping and if swimming – a paddling. In flight – flock, skein, string, team, plump, or pump would do. The definitive term for our mallards, because it also depends on species, is sord, or suit.
Ever curious, I went on to look for other interesting names that may be applicable to things in our gardens. Couldn’t find anything for gardeners, perhaps a germination? Guides can be tour coordinators, escorts, visitor experience assistants, or docents, while visitors remain as groups as long as they stay together and don’t wander off. Pheasants can be a head or a nye, or when flushed, a bouquet. Fellow quizzers, (a team) will be familiar with a chattering or murmuration of starlings while our house martins are styled as a flight. A coalition of cheetahs may be mentioned during a tour of the Italian Garden, or a troop, barrel, cartload, or tribe of monkeys.
A congregation of alligators sounds like way too many. Dodos are safer, mainly because they are extinct, and being flightless, fall into the raft category.
Anne Shirley of Green Gables talked about straying into a dance of mermaids.
An excuse to feature the 2016 brood, swans are a whiteness or a game, or if flying, a wedge.
Robins rarely flock together and have only recently been voted a group name: a round was the most popular, with breast coming a close second.
Picnicking bears, of which there were quite a few this week, can be called a sleuth, or sloth, perhaps not particularly endearing terms. I checked again and, wait for it, a group of teddies is – a hug!
Aaawwww – off to give mine, Barney, a big hug now.