Front yard news: It isn’t a Murder, just an Unkindess.

(image by Jane Irwin,

Okay, technically, there is often a Murder in my front yard.  But I like calling it an Unkindness. And while both words could refer to my merciless in culling snails from the garden (when, you know, I have the necessary skill set for it.  Like walking) in this case I’m referring to ravens. Which I am not culling.  Or killing.  But the group noun for the birds.

After three months of sitting on my ass, I’ve run through my usual list of things to do while sitting around.  And through my unusual list of things to do.  I’ve discovered, and watched every episode of The Millionaire Matchmaker (and found out that a surprisingly large number of people I know have watched it, too, just for the pleasure of mocking it).  I’m up to date on MTV’s offerings (though even in my boredom, I haven’t stooped to The Jersey Shore).

So random fact collection from the internet has become a new fascination.  Leading to the latest interest – collective group nouns.

Hence the Murder.  Of crows, but also of ravens, which are in fact what flies around my neighborhood.  And while crows can be a hover, muster, parcel , or a storytelling, the one most people know is murder.  Which is a collective noun they share with ravens, along with a storytelling.

Ravens, in addition to a murder, can be called a conspiracy, aerie, conspiracy, and, my favorite, an unkindness.

It is a charm of finches.

Also a charm of hummingbirds, but that rarely comes up, since they are very territorial, and don’t hang out in groups.

Passel of possum.  A term we don’t need, since we only see one at a time.  Also seen solitary here, are lizards (a lounge), woodpeckers (a descent) and a hawk (mews, aeire, cast, kettle, or moulting).

We’ve been sparred a horde or plague of rats, though on a couple of occasions I’ve seen a mischief of them running on the power lines.

Based on the neighbor’s dog’s reaction, I believe it should be called an excitement of squirrels.  But officially it is either a dray or scurry of squirrels.  I understand the scurry, but the dray is a bit convoluted.  A dray is a low, heavy cart without sides, used for haulage.  I guess squirrels are low, without sides.  But it is hard to see the connection…

And as long as I’m offering up my own suggestions for group nouns, how about a fascination of bees?  I spend a lot of time watching them darting between the lavender and the basil in my front yard.  But officially they are a swarm, bike, cast, cluster, drift, erst, game, grist, hive , rabble, or stand.

But the most exciting use of a group noun?  One that hasn’t been spotted here for months?  A liberation of feet!!!!

I’m out of the casts.  Still can’t walk, still in the wheelchair.  But freedom!  Toes that get to wiggle!  There is much excitement around here (and I’m not just talking squirrels).


About woodenmonkey

Just your average solar powered, hybrid driving, organic eating, happily married, pro-choice, feminist Christian artist and writer from San Francisco.

Posted on October 3, 2011, in the typing makes me sound busy. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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