Ever wonder where the strange names for groups of animals came from? Wonder no more, through the commentariat at Althouse:
From a book I enjoyed as a kid and still browse sometimes called Why Things Are by Joel Achenbach:
Why Are There So Many Bizarre Names For A Collection Of Animals…?
Our favorite is a parliament of owls, because you can imagine them in powdered wigs. According to James Lipton, author of An Exaltation of Larks, the English nobility had nothing better to do in the fifteenth century than sit around and think up funny names for groups of animals. This was called the venereal game, after the word venery, an archaic term for hunting. Terms became widely circulated by word of mouth, then established though the publication of books of courtesy, which instructed a gentleman how to behave in proper society and among other things use the right name for a bunch of foxes (“skulk”).
Many of the terms are conspicuously cute like a cowardice of curs or a murder of crows. Others sound cuter than they are meant to be; a school of fish is a corruption of shoal of fish, which is an appropriate image. Some others: A hover of trout, a husk of hares, a labor of moles, an unkindness of ravens, a murmuration of starlings, a knot of toads, a gang of elk, a fall of woodcocks, a rafter of turkeys, a kindle of kittens, a pitying of woodcocks, a crash of rhinos, a congregation of plovers, and a bevy of roebucks.
Thar’ ye go….