Labeling system could be useful

By Bob Huber: Local Columnist

Here at the Lazy Syntax Library we’re perusing a couple columns we wrote about terms used to describe groups of animals — you know, like a pride of lions and a gaggle of geese. The seed for this research was the behavior of news reporters in Washington, D.C., a few years back when they described animals in that city’s annual pet parade.

Avoiding the correct terminology, they used such sentences as:

• “They were followed by a batch of pet pigs.”

• “On the float was a bunch of monkeys.”

• “All that was missing was a mess of trout.”

You can imagine how upset we were because we are the correct language aficionados for the entire nation. We believe that for almost every animal there is a special term to designate a bunch of them. For instance: A skulk of foxes, a party of jays, a company of parrots, a colony of penguins, a murder of crows and a cover of coots.

According to James Lipton in his book “An Exaltation of Larks or the Venereal Game,” sent to us by friendly reader Barbara Brown of Clovis, this method of identifying groups of animals should extend to human beings as well.

For instance:

• A plague of tourists.

• A shriek of contestants.

• A cord of woodwinds.

• A spite of prima donnas.

• A scoop of news reporters.

• A magnum of hit men.

• A pound of carpenters.

• A lot of used-car dealers.

Well, we could go on and on. In fact, that’s what we’ll do.
Let’s examine the area of higher education, such as:

• A plenitude of freshmen.

• A platitude of sophomores.

• A gratitude of juniors.

• An attitude of seniors.

• A fortitude of graduate students.

• An avunculus of alumni.

• A clamber of assistant professors.

• A tenure of associate professors.

• An entrenchment of full professors.

• A brood of researchers.

• A discord of experts.

• A drift of lecturers.

• A pallor of night students.

• A drowse of underachievers.

Or in medical circles:

• A hive of allergists.

• A void of urologists.

• A colony of bacteriologists.

• A host of epidemiologists.

The upshot is, a number of fine expressions will be lost, such as the wheeze of joggers or a lie of golfers, unless we put our collective foot down. After all, where would we be without a comedy of airline schedules or a tragedy of train cancellations?