What do school, murder and pride have in common? The answer is that they are all names for groups of animals.
As the Childlike Empress taught us, a new name can hold incredible power. An opportunity to name something new provides the person ascribing the name with the opportunity to achieve immortality. This is one of the reasons why product names are so inconsistent, and perhaps this is also the reason why scientists exercise such extreme creativity when it comes to classifying and categorizing things in nature. Scientists are vain, selfish creatures, viewing discovery as merely a path to greatness.
While it’s clear why each species of creature requires its own name, the reason for each having a unique term to describe a group is not as obvious. Likewise, it’s unclear why different animals have been given distinct names for their young as well as their male and female incarnations.
Here’s a table listing just a few examples of the frivolous, ridiculous terms associated with various species:
|Jellyfish||Planula, Polyp||Sow||Boar||Bloom, Fluther|
|Kangaroo||Joey||Flyer, Jill||Boomer, Jack||Court, Troop|
There are many more ridiculous and useless terms not mentioned here – enough to ensure that a general naming strategy can never be constructed.
Now some of these terms are actually useful. After all, it would be helpful to use different words to distinguish male animals from female, mature from young. We also need a term, a single term, to describe a collection of animals. In addition, some of these words actually describe form or function. A larva, for example, isn’t just a newborn insect or crustacean, but a stage of development with unique characteristics. Likewise, describing a group of bees as a colony says a great deal about the behavior and organization of the organisms.
But a vast majority of these names just cause confusion and misunderstanding, for we all know that a cow is a bovine, not an alligator, and that a hen is a chicken, not a salmon. And what comedian chose the terms belonging to seahorses?
Trying to create and remember unique terms for each species or genus is incredibly impractical, and many of these terms have alternate meaning, like school, murder and pride. Also, everyone can understand what the phrase a herd of horses implies, just as we can clearly comprehend what is meant by the phrase a baby goat – we don’t need to use band or kid.
In addition to naming groups of animals, there are also names for groups of people based on their vocation: a faculty of academics, a team of athletes, a slate of candidates or a college of cardinals. As with animals, this is useful when it describes something practical, but this is rarely the case.
We should just stick to using terms that we all understand: baby and herd, man and woman.