English language eccentricities

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English language eccentricities

‘Nouns of assemblage’ as the earnest Mr Ben Schott has it, are words that indicate an ‘assembly’ of objects, animalspersons etc. They are also called ‘collective nouns’. Here are some examples from Schott, and a few of my own will follow:

A gang of elk

A suit of sails

A wilderness of monkeys

A clutch of eggs

A coven of witches

A staff of servants

A sheaf of arrows

A chattering of choughs

A pontification of priests


A surplus (surplice) of priests (my thanks to the late John Fergusun-Davie)

A fragility of eggs

A windfall of sails

A cauldron of witches

A wart of warlocks

A tusker of wild boar

A yawn of bores

A graveyard of young drivers

A rage of old drivers


Old Ben Schott also has a curiously brief collection of curious surname pronunciations. There really is no country like England for making people pronounce names exactly as they are NOT written. Here again are some Schotts, followed by some Swifts:

Althorp pronounced Althrup, Altrup or Atrup

Auchinlech pronounced Af-lek (wonder if the US actor Ben Affleck knows his surname is really Auchinlech?)

Beauchamp pronounced Beacham

Beaulieu pronounced Bewley

Belvoir pronounced Beaver

Blount pronounced Blunt

Bohun pronounced Boon

Caius (as in Caius College, Cambridge) pronounced Keys

Cholmondley pronounced Chumley

Featherstonehaugh pronounced Fanshaw

Fiennes (as in the actor brothers Ralph and Joseph) pronounced Fines

Mainwaring (remember Dad’s Army?) pronounced Mannering

Leicester pronounced Lester

Alcester pronounced Olster

Cirencester pronounced Sister

Gloucester pronounced Gloster

Seymour pronounced Seamer

Hertford pronounced Harf’d

Bucchleuch pronounced Buckloo

LevesonGower pronounced Lewson-Gore

Cadogan pronounced Caduggan

Malmesbury pronounced Maamsberry

Wriothesley pronounced Risley

By | 2011-08-23T12:39:41+00:00 August 23rd, 2011|English Language|0 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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