Lost in Translation

Most of us have heard of a murder of crows, right? Rather than something that sends ominous chills up and down your spine, it’s really just a way to describe a bunch of crows without saying … well, “There was this bunch of crows …”

The names of other animal groupings are just as interesting and intriguing. How many of these had you heard of—and used properly—before today?

Orpheus Charming the Animals, Jacob Hoefnagel, 1613

A rookery of albatross.

A congregation of alligators.

A shrewdness of apes.

A battery of barracudas.

A sleuth of bears.

A wreck of birds.

A sute of bloodhounds.

A wake of buzzards (getting ominous again).

A bellowing of bullfinches.

A nuisance of cats.

A destruction of wild cats.

A coalition of cheetahs.

A quiver of cobras. (Well, sure, they’d make anyone quiver!)

A pod of dolphins.

A pitying of doves.

A memory of elephants.

A business of ferrets.

A charm of finches.

A flamboyance of flamingoes.

A tower of giraffes.

An implausibility of gnus.

A bloat of hippopotamuses. Hippopatami?

A lounge of lizards.

A mischief of mice.

A company of moles.

A parliament of owls.

A pandemonium of parrots.

A pride of peacocks.

A rhumba of rattlesnakes.

An unkindness of ravens.

A congress of salamanders.

A shiver of sharks.

A fever of stingrays.

A gulp of swallows.

A gang (or posse) of turkeys.

A generation of vipers.

A kettle of vultures.

A wisdom of wombats.

A dazzle of zebras.

These are just the ones that caught my eye. There are dozens more names of animal packs and groupings. Which one is your favorite?

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(n.) Finnish; that secondhand embarrassment you feel when someone is making a fool of themselves, vicarious shame, or shame by proxy. From myötä- (“co-”) +‎ häpeä (“shame”).

For some with deep empathy, their myötähäpeä is so acute as to hide under the covers during movies or television scenes when a character is being ridiculous, or to avoid parties where certain relatives are bound to make an embarrassing entrance.

If you’ve never felt it, you probably haven’t had kids yet …

Photo by Tony Alter via Wikimedia Commons.

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(n.) The practice of responding to an accusation by making a counter-accusation, real or imaginary, relevant or irrelevant. Protesting at hypocrisy; responding to criticism by accusing one’s opponent of similar or worse faults. Protesting at inconsistency; refusing to act in one instance unless similar action is taken in other similar instances.

Sound familiar?

Image, W. Esser, Bodleian Libraries via Wikimedia Commons. Translation: “Now I have to go to Elba with my cock, calmly.”

Earliest documented use: 1974. Originally used in describing political discourse during the Northern Ireland troubles, it has also found use in discussions of the origins of other prolonged sectarian conflicts, such as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It was widely employed by then USSR as a propaganda technique and is now often a favorite of our current president. It is also known as whataboutism. “Turbo-charged online whataboutery is destroying proper debate.” – Helen Lewis, Nov 26, 2015

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” -Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

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