By Robert Lucke
Being out at Beaver Creek Reservoir lately, it is quickly apparent that there are both gaggles of shore birds and ice fishermen on the lake most of the time.
Ever think of phrases and terms like "gaggle of birds"?
Much outdoor wildlife can be summed up in quaint words like "gaggle" which might be out of date but are still used much of the time.
James Lipton, in his book, "An Exaltation of Larks", makes long lists of these expressions, some of which are still with us and others that have been in the dead language department for years and years.
Most came from England.
There are, according to Lipton, six classifications or families of these terms.
First is onomatopoeia. For example, a murmuration of starlings or a gaggle of geese.
Then there is characteristic such as a leap of leopards or a skunk of foxes. There are the appearance phrases, like a knot of toads or a bouquet of pheasants.
And there is a habitat such as a shoal of bass or a nest of rabbits.
There are those called comment which are either pro or con, like a richness of martens or a cowardice of curs.
And finally there are those of error which are kept in place for hundreds of years, because the error keeps being made. Best example of this is a school of fish which was meant to be a "shoal" of fish.
Most of those quaint expressions concern wildlife such as a herd of elephants, or a litter of pups, or a flock of sheep, or a swarm of bees, or a brood of hens.
They continue such as a string of ponies, a covey of partridges, a plague of locusts, and a colony of ants.
But just as suddenly they can become all too human such as a passel of brats, a herd of harlots, a superfluity of nuns, a school of clerks, and a converting of preachers.
Many are of completely unknown derivation. Examples are a murder of crows, a pace of asses, a walk of snipe, a ham of whales, a gang of elk, a skulk of foxes, a fall of woodcocks, a dule of doves, a wedge of swans, a party of jays, a company of parrots, a colony of penguins, a cover of coots or a sord of mallards.
So the next time you head to Beaver Creek Reservoir, you are likely to see a gaggle of geese, a sord of mallards along with a drift of ice fishermen.