THE AMATEUR WORD NERD: Ever try to herd a clowder?

By Barbara McAllister

Word of the Day: Clowder

A clowder is the name for a cluster of cats. A group of cats can also be called a pounce or glaring, which makes sense if you are a cat owner. What cat owner has not been pounced on or glared at by their cat?
Many animal groups have distinctive names, often more than one. Commonly used collective names include a pride of lions, a band of gorillas, a warren of rabbits, a pod of whales, a flock or gaggle of geese, a bed of oysters, a brace of ducks, and a colony of penguins.
Herrings, caterpillars, ants and frogs gather in armies; elk and buffalo congregate in gangs; wolves or mules assemble in packs; kangaroos form troops or mobs.
Some descriptive names are easy to connect to the animals. It’s easy to picture the origin of a parade of elephants, a tower of giraffes, a cackle of hyenas, a caldron of bats, a romp of otters, a stand of flamingos,a party of jays or a bloom of jellyfish. Some delightfully alliterative and descriptive names include a prickle of porcupines, a leap of leopards, a shiver of sharks, a pandemonium of parrots and a scurry of squirrels.
Other group names appear entirely without logic. Why is a gathering of crows called a murder? Why a shrewdness of apes, a business of ferrets, a conspiracy of lemurs, a risk of lobsters, or an audience of squid? And who knew that monkeys not only come in troops, they really do come in barrels?!