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  • Category: Improve Your English

    Kindly explain this term/phrase used with reference to group of Storks.

    Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long, stout bills. Storks are more or less common in Indian wetlands. However, the phrase(s) which is/are used to indicate a group of storks is not at all common. A group of storks is called "muster of storks'' or ''phalanx of storks''. I have heard different phrases to indicate different types of animals, e.g., ''pride of lions'' or ''pack of wolves'', but I never heard these phrases which are used to indicate group of storks.

    Can any Member explain why these particular phrases (muster of storks/ phalanx of storks) are used to indicate group of storks?
  • #608585
    Being interested in Birdwatching, i must admit that i was not aware of these terms. hence went to google for help

    There a plenty of names given to a group of particular bird and this apparently go back to a partice as old as 500 years. The earliest books on birds group names originate from England

    Muster: means gathering
    phalanx: means a closely knit group

    Having spent some time, i don't want to cut and past from the websites. Basically these are English terms used by British Birdwatchers to give an impression that they are well read, knowledgeable and of a certain class.

    http://baltimorebirdclub.org/gnlist.html
    An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton

    Would love to see more replies from English language experts ( professors or teachers)

  • #608587
    As far as I know, 'phalanx' means a bone of finger. So, I am astonished by the phrase 'phalanx of storks'. The word 'muster' can be used as: 'He did not muster enough courage to ask the question to the teacher'. Then why should we say 'muster of storks'' to indicate a group of storks?

    Who knows?

    Caution: Explosive. Handle with care.

  • #608598

    Most collective nouns were coined centuries ago, and weird as they might sound today, they probably made a lot of sense back then. The English language is often criticised or mocked for its quirky peculiarities. I am sure you would have come across many humorous write-ups emphasising the weird ways in which words are pronounced and of course the peculiarities in grammar. Collective nouns add to the list of oddities the language presents.

    From what I gather, groups of things, birds, animals and people, were given names based on the distinctive behaviour of specific creatures, which explains the naming of these groups of animals - 'leap of lambs' from the way lambs leap or 'ambush of Tigers' from the way they attack.

    Similarly, some groups names were inspired by the interactions things and creatures had with humans. Hence, you have a 'haul of fish', because fishermen haul their nets and you have a 'burden of mules' because of the load humans put on them. There is always a connection to something – 'stable of horses' they are housed there, 'pace of donkeys' the slow speed at which they walk or 'parade of elephants' they generally move one behind and another. Remember, the people who coined these collective nouns lived in a different era and perhaps used a different vocabulary – which explains why some words appear strange.

    Coming to your query, 'muster' means 'to group' or 'to gather'. This is a term often used in the Military. For instance, they muster in the parade ground. Storks probably gather near water bodies in large numbers, hence the term 'muster' is used to describe the group. Similarly, the word 'phalanx' describes a large group, usually standing/moving in a formation and this perhaps was the inspiration for naming a group of storks a 'phalanx'.


    "A love affair with knowledge will never end in heartbreak" - Michael Garrett Marino

  • #608617
    I have also seen the use of 'muster of ' for a group of storks or peacocks. Now, with the explanation given by Juana Madam, the matter has become clear to me.
    One more collective noun that always astonished me is 'A Parliament of Owls'.
    I would appreciate if Juana Madam kindly clear the use of the word 'Parliament' for a group of owls.
    Thanks in advance.

    I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.

  • #608631
    Back in the day, a king's aides and courtiers comprised of noblemen, who were wise. These wise men acted as advisers and made up the parliament. So, a parliament became associated with wise men.

    There is also the idiom, 'wise as an owl' – owls are seen as a symbol of wisdom. Even in Greek mythology Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is represented by an owl. Owls might have been considered wise, because of the way the look or behave.

    Collective nouns were devised based on prominent features. It was but natural then, for language scholars, to associate a group of owls with a parliament.

    On a lighter note, I often look at people and am reminded of animals. Someone can have eyes like a puppy or like that of a hawk. I like to believe that had I lived in that era I would have been on the team that decided on these collective nouns.

    "A love affair with knowledge will never end in heartbreak" - Michael Garrett Marino


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