HISTORY, ROMANCE AND...CATS!
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a vet by day and author of intelligent historical fiction by night. Grace is an avid reader and believes that smart people need to read romance - as an antidote to the modern world!
Grace is also obsessed by all things feline.
This weekend there’s
a hint of spring in the air. The sun is shining and birds are singing – albeit from
bare branches. So in this series of posts about unusual collective terms, it
seemed appropriate to write about birds.
A song thrush
fawn-coloured speckled breasts, thrushes are such pretty birds. It seems odd
then that the correct term for a group of thrushes is a ‘mutation’. This term
goes back to a belief held in ancient Roman and Greek empires, which was still
current in the middle ages – and even later.
“It’s a recognized fact amongst
naturalists that thrushes acquire new legs, and cast of the old one when about
ten years old.”
Letter to Science Gossip, published in the 1800s.
was this rather strange idea, or that thrushes moult and adopt thicker feathers
for winter, which inspired the intriguing ‘mutation
A Herd of Wrens
collective term for that jolly little bird, the wren, is altogether more
evocative of larger animals. However, ‘A
herd of wrens’ is most likely derived from an ancient fable that was known
to Aristotle and Pliny.
In the story
the birds hold a meeting to decide who should be king of all the birds. They
all agree the winner will be the bird who can fly the highest. The eagle flies
much higher than all the others and jubilantly shouts, “I am king”, at which
point the wren who had stowed away beneath his wing, pops out and flutters
higher. The birds then agree that despite his small size, the wren’s ingenuity
and daring do indeed make him worthy of the title- king of the birds.
The word ‘herd’
in the medieval context, was derived from the term for a group of male red deer
– those considered king of the deer and most prized by royalty.
A turtle dove
of Turtle Doves
a pitying of turtle doves. This term first appears in a 15th century
manuscript and relates to the association between turtle doves and sorrow. In
turn this probably came about because of the birds’ plaintive “Woo-woo” cry.
this, in the 14th century, the Book of St Albans refers to a ‘dule of doves’ – where the word dule
came from the Latin, dolere, to mean sorry of grief.
you’re a glass half full type of person, there is another term – ‘a truelove of turtle doves’, which reflects
that these birds chose one mate and remain devoted to each other for life.