A Nicety of Nouns

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”  Thomas Mann

A friend of mine is a writer and he is a judge. That particular combination requires that he use a pseudonym. He said recently that he often feels quite isolated. That led us to talking about whether there could be a new collective noun: “an isolation of judges”.

I doubt if many people outside the profession ever think of judges as being isolated. Or perhaps most people, outside the profession, try not to think of judges at all. “An isolation of judges” like “a murder of crows”…

… In word origins, it says the phrase “a murder of crows” probably dates back to at least the 15th century and relates to the fact that crows are scavengers. If they show up for corpses, they probably show up for a murder. There’s also reference in folklore to crows being judges of people and that “their appearance is an omen of death”.

So, we come full circle to “an isolation of judges”. It’s dangerous to be too isolated. It leads to murderous thoughts. But a writer can always give these thoughts to their characters. Perhaps this explains the popularity of writing crime novels.

My friend suggested “a muttering of judges” or “a perturbation of judges[perturbation: a state of mental anxiety] or maybe “an excoriation of judges[excoriate: to criticize severely].

There are some wonderfully evocative collective nouns:

“A dissimulation of birds” (pretending to be harmless)

“An exaltation of larks”

“A shrewdness of apes”

Then there’s “a coffle of asses” (a roped line). In San Miguel de Allende, opening the window onto the narrow street in front of your casa, you might say, “Look, there’s a coffle of asses going by.”

There doesn’t seem to be a collective noun for collective nouns. “A nicety of nouns”?