April 29, 2006

Wild? I was livid!

If only this piece of research from the early eighties had settled the never ending animal language debate:

An aside: the collective noun "flange (of baboons)" originated from Gerald in the above "Not the Nine O'Clock News" sketch. Gerald corrects the professor so authoritatively that I remember being taken in by him myself. "Flange" is now one of three collective nouns wikipedia and answers.com cite for baboons, the other two being "troop" and "congress". Funny thing about exotic collective nouns, as you'll gather immediately from a web search: their main use is in a language game we play that involves listing collective nouns, not in informative narratives about the animals in question. So, exotic collective nouns function primarily as a social marker, presumably showing a speaker's education and class. If eskimos did have thousands of words for snow, I bet they'd use them for the same purpose.
Posted by David Beaver at April 29, 2006 08:14 PM