Bob Howell

Nominal activity to report on the possum front. Whenever we’re late taking up leftover dry cat food, they swoop in and finish off the remainder of the crunchy grub. So, I guess you would call it business as usual.

These days when you’re curious about something, you automatically turn to a search engine on your computer. 

Such was the case this week when I started thinking about what we call groups of animals. For instance, we know that a bunch of cows is called a herd. But that is only the beginning. You’ll find some of most interesting group names surfing around the web.

For instance, we automatically assign wisdom to an owl. I suppose it’s because the owl is very calm and doesn’t appear to be easily rattled. Several TV pharmaceutical ads feature an owl pitching their products designed to relieve allergy symptoms. But do you know what you call a bunch of owls? They are referred to with the very regal sounding name — “parliament” of owls.

Sometimes, the group may have more than one group name. For instance, if you want to refer to a gathering of whales, you have your choice between: “a school” a “gam,” or a “pod” of the largest creatures in the sea. We’re all familiar with “school” but the other two come out of left field for the average person who only appreciates the majesty of whales.

Anyone who has ever been turkey hunting knows how wily a mature tom can be. So, how do you refer to  a group of turkeys? They’re known as a “rafter” of turkeys. 

For anyone who has a bird feeder, you know the biggest challenge can be keeping squirrels at bay. Since the average adult squirrel lives up to six years, the battle could be long and sustained. But regardless of the age of the little critter, if you want to properly refer to a group of them, you call them a “drey” of squirrels ... which also refers to the squirrel’s nesting area.

If you’re a little squeamish when it comes to snakes, I would be willing to wager you’ve never found yourself referring to a group of snakes. According to multiple sources, there are a couple of ways to make reference to more than one snake:  a “nest” of snakes or (and this wins the award for most descriptive) — a “knot” of snakes. 

That probably sent chills down some of your necks just reading this description.

If you believe in the old story of storks delivering babies, you might have the opportunity to refer to the word that refers to a group of storks. Grouped together, they are called a “mustering” of storks. I have no clue as to the origin of this one.

When looking for the group of animals with the most words to describe a group, look no further than the beautiful and graceful swan. A group of swans can be called a “bevy,” a “herd,” a “lamentation,” or “wedge.” Take your pick.

Then there is the common frog. A group of frogs is called an “army” or “colony.”

If you are into bird-watching you’ve likely read that when you see more than one hawk, the group is referred to as a “cast “or “kettle” of hawks.

Getting back to animals of the jungle, a group of gorillas (pray that you only see them in captivity) is called a “band.” 

One of my favorite wild life critters is the hippo. If you happen up on a group of them, they should be called a “bloat” of hippopotamuses. (It doesn’t hurt to say “yes sir” and “no sir” to them, too). 

The biggest adult male tips the scales at about 9,900 pounds (nearly twice what a 2020 Chevy Tahoe weighs), is 16 feet long and 5-feet, 2-inches tall at the shoulder.  BTW, hippopotamus is Greek for “river horse.” Just thought you’d like to know. 

And finally, when visiting the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you’ve probably seen large gatherings of jellyfish. That group is called a “smuck.” 

Regardless of their funny name, certain types of jellyfish can do serious harm to your body. Just saying.

Be careful out there.

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