MISCELLANIA

A compendium of the silly, the sublime, and the simply outrageous

Do you remember the distinction between count- and mass-nouns?  A count noun, simply speaking, can be quantified.  One bicycle, two bicycles.  A mass noun, on the other hand, cannot.  We have only an aggregation of sugar, oil, gravel, smoke, or cement.  Mass nouns are usually quantified by their containers, such as a cup of sugar, a barrel of oil, a wheelbarrow of cement.  Try collecting 12 grains of sand, or three salts, or five smokes (unless they’re Camels).

Another oddity in English is the collective noun, as in a battery of barracuda, a chain of bobolinks, or an obstinancy of bison.  I quake at the thought of an intrusion of cockroaches in the kitchen or a flock of lice in my scalp.  Some collective nouns are poetry in motion, as in a convocation of eagles, a flamboyance of flamingoes, a glint of goldfish, an exaltation of larks, an ostentation of peacocks, or a murmuration of starlings.  And imagine hearing a scold of jays or a pandemonium of parrots.

Other collective nouns that might be useful are a belligerence of politicians, an avarice of stockbrokers, or a plenitude of the poor.  And finally, give me a hierarchy of Catholics, an ablution of Baptists, and a conflagration of UUs.

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