A new collective noun: "astonishment"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Dec 19 00:42:18 UTC 2009

Google immediately shows "an astonishment of valentines" and "an
astonishment of poets."

GB has "She scorched him, too, with an astonishment of fires" from 1990.

I'm pretty sure I read it before then, but solely as a literary metaphor.

(Cf., of course, "an astonishment of riches").


On Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 5:00 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      A new collective noun: "astonishment"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  From the New York Times review of James Cameron's "Avatar", Dec. 18,
> by Manola Dargis:
> "The exotic creatures in 'Avatar,' which include an astonishment of
> undulating, flying, twitching and galloping organisms,** don't just
> crawl through the underbrush; they thunder and shriek, yip and hiss,
> pointy teeth gleaming.
> An astonishment of Pandorans.*
>     An "astonishment" can include more than just Na'vi, since
> Dargis's next sentence is "The most important of these are the Na'vi
> ...".***
> * There seems to be a battle between "Pandorans" and "Pandorians", at
> present about 3:1 for "Pandorans".  I can't get far enough into the
> "Official Web Site" (avatarmovie.com) to pass the movie bits and
> reach text to confirm official usage.
> ** I'm somehow reminded of the recent NYTimes review of Humperdinck's
> "Hansel and Gretel" at the Met -- describing it as a opera for
> children about "hunger, kidnapping, cannibalism and witch burning."
> *** I note the classical plural, gender-free (a la "alumni" in
> popular usage).  But the singular seems to be Na'vi also, at least in
> Dargis's review (Jake operates a "10-foot, blue-skinned Na'vi body.")
>      But how does Dargis get away without musing on the analogy with
> Pandora's box?  Or would that be a spoiler?  I haven't seen the film,
> of course; but Dargis writes "Although 'Avatar' delivers a late kick
> to the gut that might be seen as nihilistic (and how!), it is
> strangely utopian."  Pandora's box is (its mines are?) opened, and
> evils are let out into its world?
> Joel
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