Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why Terms of Venery? Why? And Another List for Comparison

A Venue of Vultures

Jackie of the Tulsa Forum has now joined the club of those hooked on the collective terms for groups of birds and their derivations. Here are her newest findings--

Hi, Donna--

Just to follow up on the "terms of venery" news item. I had found that term in Wikipedia, but didn't research it any further than that. After reading your comments on the curiosity of it, I was curious, too.

A Google search offers a wealth of information, such as this reader question/answer column in Outside Magazine, February 2003 (website below):Q) Why are there such individualized names for groups of animals: gaggles of geese, packs of wolves, herds of sheep, etc.?

A) IF YOU'VE EVER taken up a sport and suddenly found your vocabulary becoming much larger (abseil, 'biner, belay...), then you may understand how these terms came into being. In the Middle Ages, the collective nouns given to animals were likewise part of the lingo of a sport: hunting. They were dubbed "terms of venery" (from the Old French word vener, meaning "to hunt"), and their use was tied to the Forest Laws, a set of guidelines written to protect the animals on the king's hunting lands.

The first major reference to these words in literature appears in Thomas Malory's 1485 King Arthur classic Le Morte d'Arthur, in which Sir Tristram is said to know "all the good terms of venery and hunting... and of him we had all the terms of hawking, and which were beasts of chase and beasts of venery."

In other words, Tristram knew a clowder from a murder, and therefore he was somebody. Some of the names are more generic (a gang of elk), others are anthropomorphic (a parliament of owls), and some are downright poetic (an exaltation of larks).

While they make for funny dinner conversation now, in days of yore these words were taken very seriously. "Hunting animals and birds was a noble sport," says Allan Metcalf, an English professor at MacMurray College, in Jacksonville, Illinois, "and it was noble to know all of the various terms of the hunt."


I couldn't find a term of venery for Killdeer but a group of Plovers is a "brace" or "congregation". Brace makes me think of rabbits. Congregation is okay, but I think Killdeer should have their own specific term as opposed to just being lumped into all the Plovers. To play off congregation and the fact that they tend to individually call out while in the group. How about a Revival of Killdeer? Though perhaps not quite right either.


Also missing from the lists I examined was a term for Cowbirds. I do have one I like for them, as they must sneak into other birds nests to lay eggs--I'm suggesting a Stealth of Cowbirds.

I'm rather fond of a Pitying of Mourning Doves.

And here of course, is your basic murder of Crows.

But it was only when I got to the groups that had various names depending on what they were doing at the moment of observation and also were specific to species that I realized that these names were very important shorthand while hunting.
Above is a gaggle of geese.

And here is a skein of geese.
And when the birds are flying in a V, they are a wedge of geese.
Therefore the person spotting the birds, could say, "Gaggle at tree line." The others in the group would know a number of facts from that short sentence.
One, that the observed birds were geese.
Two, there were a number of goose.
And three, to look on the ground instead of above the trees for them.
Making it far easier for everyone to have a general idea about what they were looking for and where to look for it without a long explanation.
Why have different names for a skein and a wedge? Because a skein, the straight line of geese, tends to be a formation that occurs closer to the ground as the geese are sorting themselves out for a flight. If a wedge were called, one would look higher in the sky. And likely the geese would be flying faster as well.
Therefore these words truly were useful in the endeavor as opposed to just showing off one's erudition

Before a look at the new venery list sent in by contributor Linda Maslin, here is a petition from The Humane Society pertaining to some animal protection amendments that need to come up for a vote. Those of you in Pennsylvania can do a good deed if you agree there shouldn't be puppy mills or captive pigeons or any other animal used for target practice.
Those of you who don't live in PA, can send it to someone who does.
ALERT from the Humane Society was forwarded from The New York Bird Club

Only a Few Days Left to Protect Puppies and Pigeons in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania state legislature is about to adjourn and two important bills are still awaiting action.

Legislation (H.B. 2525) to crack down on puppy mills in Pennsylvania passed the House of Representatives last week! This was an historic victory in the "puppy mill capital of the east."
H.B. 2525 will overhaul Pennsylvania's Dog Law and impose stronger animal welfare standards for puppy mills. This bill needs to pass the Senate before the legislature adjourns.

Legislation to stop pigeon shoots is also awaiting action in the legislature. This legislation has been amended on to several related bills that are scheduled to receive a vote in the House of Representatives. The opposition continues to be vigilant against our efforts, so it is critical to keep up the pressure. The Majority Leader of the House, Representative
William DeWeese, has the power to bring the pigeon shoot amendments up for a vote, so he needs to hear from Pennsylvanians who support this legislation.
1. Please make a brief, polite phone call to your state senator, Michael Stack, at (717) 787-9608 to urge support for H.B. 2525 to overhaul the Dog Law and give stronger protections for dogs in breeding facilities.
After making your call, please send a follow-up email to Senator Stack in support of H.B. 2525. If you can't call, be sure to send an e-mail.

2. Please make a brief, polite phone call to Rep. DeWeese, Majority Leader of the House, at (724) 627-8683 to urge him to support the pigeon shoot amendments and use his leadership role to bring the amendments up for a vote. When you call, you can say:

"Hello, my name is [your name] and I'm calling from [your town] to ask Representative DeWeese to support Representative Leach's efforts to amend a Title 18 bill to ban the shooting of trap-released or tethered animals for target practice. I urge him to give these amendments a vote. It’s time to finally prohibit pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania.

Thank you."

If you can't call, please send an e-mail or fax ASAP to:

Click here to contact Member
Home Page:
Hon. H. William DeWeeseFONT>



Plus a quote for the day from Goethe,

"There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity."

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