murder of crows [animal collective nouns -- Forum Mod.]

Discuss word origins and meanings.

murder of crows [animal collective nouns -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Shelley » Fri Feb 23, 2007 10:59 pm

Frankly, I don't care how you want to spell it, but an exaltation of larks may not mean exactly the same thing as an exultation of larks. Although both words mean extreme joy or happiness, exAltation also means to raise up, lift or promote to a higher place or position: (from Oxford American Dictionaries)

exaltation |?egzôl?t? sh ?n; ?eksôl-| noun
1 a feeling or state of extreme happiness : she beams with exaltation.
2 the action of elevating someone in rank, power, or character : the exaltation of Jesus to the Father's right hand. • the action of praising someone or something highly : the exaltation of the army as a place for brotherhood.
ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [the action of raising high] ): from late Latin exaltatio(n-), from Latin exaltare ‘raise aloft’ (see exalt ).

exult |ig?z?lt| verb [ intrans. ] show or feel elation or jubilation, esp. as the result of a success : exulting in her escape, Annie closed the door behind her.
DERIVATIVES exultation |?eks?l?t? sh ?n; ?egz?l-| noun exultingly adverb
ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Latin exsultare, frequentative of exsilire ‘leap up,’ from ex- ‘out, upward’ + salire ‘to leap.’

Not to put too fine a point on it. ;-)

One more little thing: the "whys" of this are curious to me. Particularly, why is it a "murder" of crows? I have a guess (as usual). Aren't crows symbolic of pending disaster or doom? I've always noticed (in movies, for example) the presence of a crow or a group of them flying through a scene, or pecking away at something in the foreground, and sooner or later, things turn very badly for the characters. Sometimes, you just hear them cawing . . .
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Post by Meirav Micklem » Fri Feb 23, 2007 11:52 pm

How many Englishmen to the pound, one wonders.
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Feb 24, 2007 12:04 am

a pound of English Bulldogs.
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Post by Meirav Micklem » Sat Feb 24, 2007 12:23 am

Surely even an English bulldog weighs more than a pound.
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murder of crows [animal collective nouns -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Feb 24, 2007 1:17 am

On the other hand, since the end of the British Empire politicians in the UK have obsessively pursued a foreign policy aimed at promoting Britain's ability to 'punch above its weight'.

However, as the events of recent years have demonstrated, the tenacious British bulldog has enjoyed much greater success as a subservient poodle.
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murder of crows [animal collective nouns -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Feb 24, 2007 6:48 am

Shelley, Both crows and ravens have had a lot of bad press for a long, long time, and they both got dissed in The Book of St. Albans (i.e. ‘A Murder of Crows,’ ‘An Unkindness of Ravens’).
Incidentally, I would point out that although many people don't know the difference between a 'raven' and 'crow,' they are actually quite a bit different. But, technically, since ravens belong to the crow (corvus) family of birds, they can be called crows - however, not all crows are ravens (back to those lovely Venn diagrams). The two differ in several ways. Ravens are a lot bigger (the size of a hawk), their call is deeper and throatier (often described as a ‘croak’ - the common raven's scientific name is corvus corax, meaning 'raven croaker') than the higher pitched ‘caw caw' of the crow, their feathers are more rumpled-looking, the end of their tail is more wedge-shaped and less round (you will only notice this when they are in flight), and they generally prefer to live in wilder areas. Ravens are more common than crows out my way in Colorado.
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from An Exaltation of Larks [Exultation (>:)]:

A MURDER OF CROWS: The term appears in the oldest of the manuscripts, Egerton [[The Egerton Manuscript (circa 1450)]] as a ‘Mursher of Crowys. By 1476 it had become the more easily recognizable ‘Murther of Crowes in The Hors, Shepe & the Ghoos.

AN UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS: From the legend that ravens pushed their young from the nest to be ‘nourished with dew from heaven,’ as The Folk Lore of British Birds put it in 1885, until the adult birds ‘saw what color they would be.’
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BLACK: Black has long been associated with evil and death. In Western culture it is the traditional color worn at funerals. Witches are traditionally depicted all in black attended by a black cat or raven.

The CROW: The death-black coloring of the crow, in combination with its intelligence, has led to the bird being regarded as one of the most ominous of creatures. In Celtic folklore, it was connected with terrible beings who were once goddesses, and who now lived on after the coming of Christianity as hags or monsters. Once considered a messenger of the gods and later a cohort of the traditional witch, the crow was viewed by many as a harbinger of death and disaster. The crow was particularly feared if it landed upon a house or tapped at a windowpane. A crow settling in a churchyard was likewise deemed as an omen that there would be a funeral in the near future. Crows that left a wood en mass were interpreted as a sign of coming famine, and if they flew at one another it presaged the outbreak of war. In Northern England children would see off a single crow with the threat: ‘Crow, crow get out of my sight, / Or else, I’ll eat thy liver and thy lights.' However, a rhyme from the Essex region said that crows in certain combinations could bring good or bad luck: One’s unlucky, / Two’s lucky; / Three is health, / Four is wealth; / Five is sickness / And six is death.’

The Raven: Perhaps because it is a carrion-eater, the raven has been associated with death, pestilence, disease, battle, and destruction and it is also connected in folk-tradition with storm and flood. Like other black birds the raven (an attendant upon the gods of both Greece and Scandinavia) is widely considered a creature of ill omen and is feared for its apparent ability to foresee death. It is particularly disliked in the vicinity of the sick, as the call of this ‘messenger of death’ is an omen that the patient will not recover. In times gone by it was suggested that the bird was a favorite disguise of the devil and also that it carried disease around the countryside on its wings. Some suggest that this association with death may have some root in the bird’s extremely sensitive powers of smell, which will draw it to decaying flesh and even sick and injured animals some distance away. Another explanation harks back to the 11th-century Norman invaders of England who carried the raven as an emblem on their banners, thus linking the bird in the minds of the English with the ravages of war. As with the crow, however, it ain’t all bad and there are also some positive superstitions involving the bird.

(Cassell’s Dictionary of Superstitions (1995) by Pickering, The Encyclopedia of Superstitions (1961) by Hole)
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Ken – February 23, 2007
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Post by Shelley » Sat Feb 24, 2007 1:03 pm

Thank you, Ken -- I'll wonder nevermore!
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Feb 24, 2007 1:30 pm

Crows are very common in Pennsylvania. Ravens rather rare. One spring I witnessed a family of ravens on what must have been one of the first outings for the fledglings; the parents were teaching the young to make different sounds. The resemblance to the human voice was astounding. Had I heard "nevermore" I would not have been more surprised!
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murder of crows [animal collective nouns -- Forum Mod.]

Post by trolley » Sat Feb 24, 2007 5:58 pm

Shelley,
Consider another theory to the “why murder” question. While many cultures have thought of crows as the harbingers of death, death and murder are two different animals. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have an abundance of crows and ravens. Crows are notorious nest raiders (of their own, as well other bird nests.). A particular target of this raiding seems to be ravens. After the chicks are hatched, one adult always remains at the nest while the other goes off to work. While a hawk or an eagle will drop like a bolt from the heavens and knock the raven, nest and all, to the ground, crows will actually cooperate in a flock to achieve their results. They invade the tree, clambering around on the adjoining branches, screeching and dive-bombing the guardian raven. Eventually it will leave the nest to chase one or more of its antagonists and the other little buggers swoop in. It’s an amazing thing to watch. It’s a planned attack, a military maneuver. It really is murder most fowl.
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Feb 24, 2007 6:02 pm

And they attack their arch-enemies, owls, the same way. I have observed them picking on an owl for hours. They say owls pick them off at night, and this displeases the crows.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Feb 24, 2007 7:04 pm

John,
<“Consider another theory to the “why murder” question.”>
Foul play engenders dreams of eating crow:

“On this home by horror haunted,—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
        Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’”
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Ken G – February 24, 2007
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Feb 25, 2007 10:47 am

.. Ken I like it .. an Outback of Aussies .. however I would've opted for a Malt of Scots .. my reasoning being that fifth is a peculiarly American term .. and Bob I would've sang an Eisteddfod of Welshmen or maybe a mine, a Bassey ?? .. and Ken I have been thinking about what one would call a group of Americans but sadly most of the venereals that I come up with would definitely offend somebody so I think I will leave THAT one alone .. a Haka of New Zealanders ?? .. and that must give a flightless of kiwis .. oh OK I will stick my neck out .. no doubt some people would see it as a Democracy of Americans ?? .. and I'll leave it at that ..

WoZ of Aus 25/02/07
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

murder of crows [animal collective nouns -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Shelley » Sun Feb 25, 2007 1:59 pm

How about an obesity of Americans?
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Post by Bobinwales » Sun Feb 25, 2007 2:10 pm

Wizard of Oz wrote: .. but sadly most of the venereals that I come up with would definitely offend somebody so I think I will leave THAT one alone ..
Didn't stop Erik...
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

murder of crows [animal collective nouns -- Forum Mod.]

Post by Dr Stevil » Sun Feb 25, 2007 7:35 pm

Ken Greenwald wrote:
although many people don't know the difference between a 'raven' and 'crow,' they are actually quite a bit different. But, technically, since ravens belong to the crow (corvus) family of birds, they can be called crows
And how many know the difference between a rook and a crow? Not many.
If in doubt you can quite accurately refer to ravens, crows, rooks, choughs, magpies, jackdaws and jays, as corvids, the Corvidae being the taxon which covers the whole crow family.

Back to the collective nouns, my favourite is a camera of Japanese
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