Guest post by T.R. Ramaswami

The English language has some wonderfully anthropomorphic collective nouns for the various groups of animals. We are all familiar with a Herd of cows, a Flock/Clutch of chickens, a School of fish and a Gaggle of geese. However, less widely known is a Pride of lions, a Murder of crows (as well as their cousins the rooks and ravens), an Exaltation of doves, an Army of ants, a Swarm of bees, Troop of monkeys, etc.
Now consider Baboons. They are the loudest, most dangerous, most obnoxious, most viciously aggressive and least intelligent of all primates. And what is the proper collective noun for a group of baboons? Believe it or not … Congress! Now ‘congress’ is also used to denote that familiar nocturnal activity that results in families. No wonder the country is probably being ‘congressed’?!

Owls, considered wise in western culture, are given the collective noun – ‘Parliament’ – presumably because parliament is a group of wise people. But owls – ie ulus – have a negative image here in India. Now if you translate “parliament of owls” into Hindi – you get “uluon ka sansad”!! Look how the translation also retains the cultural image!

Parliament is famous for forming Committees – that’s the collective noun for vultures! Again so appropriate! Incidentally the various collective nouns for politicians are – FIB, CHAOS, EXPENSE, SHAME & CORRUPTION. Now can Lokpal do anything to a congress of baboons and an uluon ka sansad, before the country gets ‘congressed’ and only the vultures are waiting for the pickings?


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