Monthly Archives: July 2011

Pin-Up of the Week

This week’s pin-up is Princess the kitten from Aberdeen who survived an hour stuck in a washing machine cycle. She emerged bedraggled and shaken, but appears to have fully recovered after three days at the vets.

The Mysterious Quail’s Egg Of Hertford

There it was on the carpet – a quail’s egg.
Bolly was fascinated by it. So was I.
How did it get there? It’s a while since I’ve had quails’ eggs in the kitchen. And I’m certainly not aware of any quails squatting in the house …

But then, on closer inspection, I realised it was one of the new pebbles I put in the garden at the weekend. No quails involved whatsoever.

Guinea Pigs – Collective Noun Update

a guinea pig judging panel pores (paws?) over your nominations
Thanks for all the suggestions. I’m currently liking –
a wibble (Sarah)
a squeak (Phil)
a squee (H)
a snuffle (Andrew)
But the fluffy jury’s still out. Please keep them coming. I’m intending to campaign for a new collective noun at the highest levels.

Wanted – Collective Noun For Guinea Pigs

guinea pigs at Van Hages
I spent an inordinate amount of time watching the guinea pigs at Van Hages garden centre yesterday with my friend Henrietta. And we suddenly realised we had no idea what the collective noun was for them.
H suggested a ‘serenade of guinea pigs’ or a ‘crescendo’, both of which I rather liked. But it turns out the actual term is ‘group’. What a let-down. It does alliterate I suppose, but it hardly does them justice.
Squeaking? Vociferation? Twitter? Shrill? Toot? Fluff? Coiffure? Tuft?
Or perhaps a Bonham, to reflect the resemblance of the more unkempt pigs to Helena Bonham Carter’s hairdos.
Any suggestions?

a Van Hages guinea pig impersonating Helena Bonham Carter

Helena Bonham Carter herself (actually, an odd chicken-type creature in Van Hages mini zoo)

Here are some of my favourite existing collective nouns –
pride, pulchritude, ostentation or muster of peacocks (quite right too)
sedge of bitterns
plump of moorhens
murmuration of starlings
herd of wrens (herd? eh?)
squabble of seagulls
parcel of penguins
flamboyance of flamingoes
raft of loons
richesse of martins
murder or unkindness of ravens
lamentation of swans
Non-fluffy things
clutter of spiders
cloud of gnats
intrusion of cockroaches
family of sardines
mess of iguanas
conflagration of arsenists
neverthriving of jugglers
malapertness of pedlars
comfort, clutter or glaring of cats
scurry of squirrels
boogle of weasels
horde of gerbils
prickle of porcupines
mob of wombats

gratuitous pic of a cute wombat, which may or may not be part of a mob

Pin-Up of the Week

This week’s pin-up is the world’s smallest cat, Mr Peebles from Illinois, with his friend Robert the guinea pig.

Pompous Pop Song Titles

Mick Jagger of the Circumrotary Monoliths

Having expatiated upon Latinate and Hellenistic verbalisations, I’ve now become obsessed with making up pompous titles for pop songs. Here are my top ten. Please email your suggestions to

Persecute me with your rhythmical accoutrement – Ian Dury and the Blockheads

Remuneration, remuneration, remuneration – Abba

Valedictory verbalisations, Ms Transatlantic Patisserie – Don MacLean

Analagous to a vestal personage – Madonna

Adolescent gratifications – The Undertones

I am unable to accomplish satiety – Rolling Stones

Imperfect preternuptial fornication – Lady Gaga

Celestial balustrade – Led Zeppelin

Castigate me, neonate, one more time – Britney Spears

The ornithological canticle – The Tweets

Epiphenomenal Imbroglios

What do you prefer? Dog or canine? (‘How much is that canine in the fenestration? The one with the vacillating appendage…’) Flood or inundate? Troth or fidelity? Foresake or relinquish? Aware or cognizant? Brainy or cerebral? Harbinger or indicator? Before or prior? Deem or judge? Drink or imbibe? Kind or amicable? Small or diminutive?

If it’s the former, then, like me, you prefer Germanic to Latinate English.

I spend half my life ticking people off at a well-known broadcasting organisation for mindlessly using Latinate language where Germanic English sounds much more chatty.

Obviously some people can get away with high Latinate style. Milton for one. And Dr Johnson. But it’s pretty clear he was being silly when he defined something as –

Any thing reticulated or decussated, with equal distances between the interstices

A network.

It’s odd that even Germanic types like me revert to Latinate utterances when they get a bit carried away. Last year, I described a riverbank as a ‘vertiginous abyss’ on Radio 4. I was feeling nervous about climbing down it, so I clung for dear life onto lots of syllables.

I guess the same thing happened to a Sky News reporter recently when the anchorperson asked him how things were looking in Afghanistan. ‘The auguries are not particularly propitious’ came the reply.

Even Greek usages have crept in this week, as the so-called ‘Murdochalypse’ has engulfed us.

And that’s provided a perfect cue for the prodigiously sesquipedalian Will Self (who has monosyllabic names) to describe it as an ‘epiphenomenal imbroglio’ where we all float around in a ‘protoplasmic gloop of titillating supposition, in a strange interregnum between cultural hegemonies.’

Loving the cheeky insertion of ‘gloop’. Gloop’s my kind of word. But I am secretly partial to hegemonies. I know they’re all about assumptions of political-cultural dominance. But they do make me think of cute sea creatures.

To quote Finding Nemo, the sea cucumber turns to the mollusc and says, ‘With fronds like these, who needs anemones?’