Richard G. Petty, MD

Labor Day Trivia With a Twist

The English language must be one of the oddest. Well actually I know that it is. Except perhaps for those few languages that have managed to get by with hardly any words for emotion. Or the ones that have hundreds of ways of describing snow.

In English there are more than one thousand words describing groups of things, usually animals. Many of these words go back to the Middle Ages: fun to look up on a wet English afternoon. And many have been taking up some of my precious neural storage space for a very long time.

In today’s trivia corner, the question came up as to what name is given to a group of cats? I knew that one, it’s a clowder, and if they’re kittens, it’s a kyndyll, also spelt kindle.

Then I started putting together a few others that I remembered, and looked up a couple more. If you type “Collective nouns” into Google you’ll get hundreds, but I’m not sure about some of them!

Here are a few fun ones:
Army of frogs or ants

Bale of turtles 

Band of gorillas 

Baren of mules
Bed of clams or oysters 

Bevy of quail or swans 

Brace of ducks 

Brood of chicks
Business of ferrets
Cast of hawks 

Cete of badgers 

Charm of goldfinches or hummingbirds
Chine of polecats
Cloud of gnats
Clutch of chicks
Colony of rabbits, ants, gulls and bats
Company of wigeons (they’re dabbling ducks found all over North America)

Congregation of plovers
Convocation of eagles 

Covert of coots 

Covey of quail or partridge
Cry of hounds
Down of hares 

Draft of fish (That one’s rarely used these days)
Dryft (drift) of tame swine 

Drove of cattle, sheep, pigs 
(In the Middle Ages, cows were also called kine or kyne)
Exaltation of larks 

Fall of woodcocks
Flange of baboons
Flight of birds 

Flock of sheep, geese, ducks 

Gaggle of geese 

Gam of whales 

Gang of elk 

Grist of bees
Harras of horses 

Herd of cattle, deer, elephants, horses, and sheep
Hive of bees
Horde of gnats 

Hover of trout 

Husk of hares 

Kettle of hawks
Labor of moles
Lepe or leap of leopards 

Leash of foxes 

Litter of pigs, cats, dogs 

Murder of crows 

Murmuration of starlings 

Muster of peacocks 

Mute of hounds 

Nest of rabbits, vipers, turtles and hornets
Nide, or nye of pheasants 

Pack of dogs, hounds, wolves, and mules
Parliament of rooks or owls 

Pod of dolphins, whales or seals
Pride of lions
Raft of ducks (paddling around on water) 

Rafter of turkeys 

Rag of colts
Route of wolves
School of fish (At one time they were called shoals of fish)
Scold of jays
Sculk of foxes
Sedge of cranes, bitterns, herons 
shoal of bass
Singular of boars
Shrewdness of apes 

Skein of geese (In flight)
Skulk (sculk) of foxes 

Sloth or sleuth of bears 

Sounder of wild swine or boars  

Span of mules 

Spring of teal 

Stud of mares 

Swarm of bees
Team of ducks, horses, pigs, oxen 

Tribe of goats 

Troop of kangaroos or monkeys
Unkindness of ravens

Volary of birds 

Walk of snipe 

Watch of nightingales 

Wedge of swans 

Wing of plovers 

Yoke of oxen
Zeal of zebras

There are some very funny ones that can’t be genuine. Try these:
An addition of mathematicians
A brace of orthodontists
A bunch of florists
A clutch of car mechanics
A concert of yes-men
An expense of consultants
A flash of paparazzi
An intrigue of politicians
A prickle of hedgehogs
A rash of dermatologists
A tedium of golfers

This is all harmless fun. But there’s also a slightly more serious side to it. Developing your vocabulary, even for odd words like these, appears to reduce your risk of developing age-related cognitive decline and should help keep you mentally sharp.

And I’ve got the brain scans to prove it!


I have written about Alzheimer’s disease in the past, but it is important for everyone to know that not all dementia, and certainly not all memory loss, is Alzheimer’s disease.

There is a brief article on the Psychiatric Resource Forum website that will point you toward some extra resources.

Our biggest interest is always in ensuring that someone who seems to be developing a dementing illness doesn’t actually have one of the large number of remediable causes of cognitive decline, such as depression, an underactive thyroid, vitamin B12 or folate deficiency, or an unusual condition called normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Curry and Cognition

During a visit to Singapore a couple of years ago, I heard about some interesting research that’s just been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The authors did something fairly simple. They took a group of 1,010 people with no evidence of dementia aged 60-93 years, and correlated their consumption of curry with their cognitive performance. Studies like this are not easy: what if more intelligent people like eating curry to begin with? What if sick people can’t get out to the local curry house? And so on.

But the researchers did this all very carefully: they took into account all the known sociodemographic, health, and behavioral determinants of performance on a simple cognitive test. So they controlled for many of the other factors that can accelerate cognitive decline, like depression, smoking, drinking alcohol, high blood pressure, glucose and lipids.

The result was that people who occasionally or often ate curry had significantly better cognitive function than people who "never, or rarely" ate curry.

Is there any logic to this?

Well in fact there is. Curcumin, from the curry spice, turmeric, has been shown to possess potent antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties and to reduce beta-amyloid and plaque burden in experimental studies. There have been serious suggestions about using active constituents of tumeric to try and prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

This research is all very encouraging. The amount of curcumin used in the experimental studies is similar to the amount ingested by having a couple of curries a week, and now the epidemiological study from Singapore suggest that those couple of curries may have a clinically measurable effect.  That’s not to say that eating curry three times a day is going to be even better.

All things in moderation: too much curry can play havoc with your digestive processes.

And your relationships….

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