Saturday, July 29, 2006

A clowder of cats

Clowder is the collective noun for cats.

The thing that fascinates me is that this is such a rare word. A pack of dogs, a herd of cows, a flock of birds, a swarm of bees and a school of fish are all deeply familiar. I'd confidently talk about a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese or a pod of dolphins (even though thinks that the correct term is a school of dolphins). I even know the words for a murder of crows, a leap of leopards and a parliment of owls.

So why not a clowder of cats?

Even though cats are not as social as dogs and humans, if it was a common word - like pack for dogs, I'd use it from time to time. I'd say "Does N still have a whole clowder of cats?", "Today the local clowder of cats was practicing staring" and "We got Andy from the SPCA. We went in and look at the clowder of cats in the cat room and then sat in the middle of the room talking about whether we could leave without choosing one (as none seemed quite right) when Andy jumped on D's knee and chose us". I'd talk about the clowder of cats that Slinky Malinki hangs out with when I read Slinky Malinki Catflaps aloud.

But instead I am left pondering the oddities of English.


susan said...

Clowder is only the collective noun for cats fed on clam chowder.

RUTH said...

So cats fed on jellymeat and crunchies hang out in junchies?

JK said...

Free dictionary ( says clowder for cats...

Definitely POD for dolphins! :-) Definitely.