Mobs, packs, gangs and gaggles: Run!

by Ken Carpenter

Since the beginning of life on Earth, creatures of all kinds have discovered that their chances of survival get a big boost if they hang around with a band of their cronies instead of living as a loner. If nothing else, when a bigger, badder predator showed up there were at least a bunch of tasty cousins running away that might draw its attention.

            These different groups of animals have drawn a mind-boggling number of labels for their gangs. Oh, excuse me, elk and buffalo clusters are known as gangs, though a gang of buffalos can be an “obstinacy”. I can see why with those thick skulls.

             A flock of ravens is called an “unkindness”, but their cousins the crows are called a “murder” if they have the audacity to assemble. If buzzards congregate it is a “wake”, magpies are a “gulp”, doves a “pitying”, finches a “charm” (yes), jays are a “scold” (indeed), lapwings (?) are a “deceit”, eagles a “convocation”, larks an “exaltation” and owls are a “parliament” (how cool is that?). There are many other bird flock names, the most widely known being a “gaggle” of geese.

            By the way, if anybody refers to you and your friends as a gaggle, do not take it as a complement. Just tell them “At least we aren’t a ‘cauldron’ of bats, pooping upside down for a living.”

            Apes, my not so distant cousins, are called a “shrewdness” when in a band, and baboons are a “congress”. A gang of gorillas, by the way, is actually called a “band.” How that happened I have no idea.

            A posse of bears can be called a “sloth or sleuth”, depending on how sneaky they are being. That is my opinion anyway.

            Cats are a “clowder”, not to be confused with chowder (gag!), at least in this country. Kittens are a “kindle, litter or intrigue”, and litter works for puppies too. Cuties works for me in either case. In case you are interested, a pack of curs is a “cowardice”, but I admit to some confusion about curs. In my book, a gang of unkempt, smelly, slithery acting humans could also be a cowardice of curs.

            A herd of donkeys is a “pace”, elephants are a “parade”, ferrets somehow earned the name a “business”, foxes are a “skulk” (chicken killers!) and hyenas are, of course, a “cackle”. One of my favorites is a “bloat” of hippopotamuses.

            Some rare common sense called rhinoceroses a “crash”, giraffes a “tower” and the hard working moles a “labor”. Lemurs are known as a “conspiracy”, and I’m sure it must be their habit of big-eying intruders around trees in the dark. I used to know a guy who should have been known as Lemur.

            Porcupines, “Duh Ralph!”, are called a “prickle” if they have a meeting. It must be rare, I’ve never seen more than one at a time.

            Goats are a “tribe” or a “trip”, and kangaroos are a “troop” or a “mob”. The word mob reminds me, I am done squealing on animals and think it is high time for a few human remarks.

            There are countless names for a crowd of people, with rabble, horde, mass, throng, crush and mob being among my favorites. Numerous times every year a supposedly orderly group of humans will panic and begin to stampede, mashing dozens if not hundreds to death.

            They do it more frequently than supposedly stupid herd animals do. You could swear we are part lemming, but there is one problem with that.

            The universal belief that lemmings commit mass suicide by leaping from a cliff is a myth. I will leave you with that thought, and the tidbit that a multitude of lemmings is called a “slice”.

            Stay tuned.