Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Collective Term for a Group of Cats?

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know I'm a "mad cat lady" in training. I love anything and everything to do with cats. Whilst waiting for my son to meet me in Waterstones, Birmingham (bearing in mind we live near London, this happened to be our easiest to-get-to bookstore – but that's a whole different story), I discovered a charming book about collective nouns. 

If you mentally switched off at the mention of "nouns" (and by default, grammar) fear not! This post is about cuteness not clauses, and can be read by those phobic about punctuation. So, onwards! Let's answer those all important questions such as…

What is the Correct Term for a Group of Cats?
Yes, it made me pause (or paw-se.) To my shame I'd never stopped wonder what a group of cats is called – sometimes I amaze even myself!

According to Chloe Rhodes(*), there are two early mentions of the collective noun for cats.  A manuscript from 1450, the Egerton Manuscript, "a  clouder of cats." Whilst in 1476 a list found at the end of "Horse, Sheep, and Goose" states "a cluster of tame cats."

Three terms seem to be in use in the Middle Ages (which raises questions in my mind about how often a group of cats pops up in conversation) and these are clowder, cluster, and clutter. It seems likely that these words have a common origin, possibly an Old English word, clott, meaning a mass of objects stuck together.

Hmm, not sure it's how I would have described a group of cats – more like an "independence of cats" in my book. Perhaps a better term is one found in the Harley Manuscript which sites "a glorying of cats." That's more like it! The term glorying is also interchangeable with glaryn, meaning to shine brightly, which at a push could describe cats eyes glowing in the darkness.

Next week: A litter of kittens? I think not! Find out the proper term for a cuteness/ confection of kittens.

Fellow cat lovers, leave your suggestions of a fitting term to describe a group of cats.
(*) An Unkindness of Ravens. Chloe Rhodes. Michael O'Mara books.

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