A new collective noun: "astonishment"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Dec 19 02:34:03 UTC 2009

At 9:08 PM -0500 12/18/09, Bill Palmer wrote:
>or, "a shrewdness of apes",etc...ad infinitum
>Bill Palmer

Not to (hereby) mention "an exaltation of larks" and "a murder of crows".


>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Wilson Gray" <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 8:40 PM
>Subject: Re: A new collective noun: "astonishment"
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>>Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>>Subject:      Re: A new collective noun: "astonishment"
>>Or "a pride of lions," etc.
>>On Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 7:42 PM, Jonathan Lighter
>><wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
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>>>Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
>>>Subject:      Re: A new collective noun: "astonishment"
>>>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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>>>>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?
>>>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>>"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
>>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"--a strange complaint to
>>come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>>-Mark Twain
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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