Monday, 17 September 2018

Some thoughts about culture.

I like collective nouns, especially the ones that suggest some attribute of the, usually, birds or animals concerned. A pride of lions. Very fitting for that animal. A gaggle of geese for the noise they make. A murder of crows - because apparently crows are rumoured to judge some of their number and peck them to death. Clearly not very nice birds, crows. A parliament of owls - because the owl represents Athena, goddess of wisdom. Gosh! Does that imply that parliaments are wise? I have only ever once seen more than one owl at a time and that was a mother owl trying to persuade her fledgeling to fly back to the nest. I only ever see one heron at a time but it seems you can have a battery of herons.

I rather like an lincontinence of yellowlegs”. Yes, I too wondered what a yellowleg is. It turns out to be some kind of Canadian sandpiper.

I got onto this because a friend of mine, an oceanographer who has worked for the European Fisheries Commission and therefore knows something about fish, posted a list of collective nouns related to fish.Here goes:-

A shoal of fish. Well, we all knew that one, didn’t we?
A bind of salmon.
A company of angel fish. How nice!
A family of sardines.
A fleet of bass.
A float of tuna.
A flotilla of swordfish.
A glint of goldfish. Of course!
A herd of seahorses. What else?
A party of rainbow fish. Well, naturally!
A school of cod.
A shiver of sharks. Doo doo da doo! I must tell my grandchildren so that they can add it to the “Baby shark” song!
A shoal of mackerel.
A squad of squid. Nice! Football players?
A swarm of dragonet fish. What is a dragonet fish?
A troupe of shrimp. Heading for the stage or the circus?

Even if these were invented by someone, I particularly like a glint of goldfish. And, anyway, expressions have to be invented sometime.

Maybe these should be on the national curriculum. All SATs should include a section on collective nouns. Well, it makes as much sense as some of the stuff kids are tested on. And they could be included in tests for “Britishness”. Again, it makes as much sense as some of the stuff people are asked about. Oh, and proverbs should be included as well! There is a scene in the film “Amélie” where a young man is tested on his knowledge of proverbs as a checking if he is a nice person!

I read this morning about about a study carried out to find out people’s attitudes to immigration. Four out of ten people, it seems, believe multiculturalism undermines British Culture, whatever that is. Perhaps they mean knowledge of proverbs and collective nouns!

Here’s an interesting fact:

“The study found that people in large cities were the most likely to be positive about immigration, with scores declining as settlements became smaller, with rural residents the least positive.”

Which just shows that people are often scared of what they don’t know.

Also in the paper at the weekend, cookery writer Jay Rayner had a little rant about how boring it is to eat nothing but the food of one particular region or country. Britain is often sneered at, he says, for not having a rich, individual cuisine such as other countries have, but what makes British food so interesting, he maintains, is that we have assimilated so many other cuisines.

That’s what multiculturalism does for you!

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