whales: pod or school?

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whales: pod or school?

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Jun 28, 2004 5:03 pm

It seems to be "common knowledge" that the collective noun for whales is a "pod", but according to several dictionaries and books on English grammar the correct term is a "school" of whales, "pod" being the term for a group of seals, porpoises or other pinnipeds and small cetaceans.

Is it possible that marine biologists use the term "pod" for ALL marine mammals, while whalers formerly used the term "school" (equivalent to "shoal" for fishermen) and that this term (like whaling on a large scale) no longer exists?

Simon Beck
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whales: pod or school?

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Jun 28, 2004 5:17 pm

Given the national obesity, perhaps U.S.A might be better.
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whales: pod or school?

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Jun 28, 2004 5:32 pm

After checking this one out, there does seem to be some confusion on what to call a group of whales (pod or school?). But from what I can gather the answer may lie in the size of the group (see below).

A small group of whales should be called POD (according to most). Note that this word is not exclusive to whales and applies to some other animals also. Also, where small (and pod), stops and larger (and school), begins is not definite, so some discretion is left to the beholder (and some dictionaries below don’t even draw the distinction). But, in general, a SCHOOL of whales does seem to connote a larger gathering and a POD a smaller.
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POD noun U.S. mid 19th century [origin unknown] a small heard or school of seals or whales, or occasionally of other animals; a small flock of birds. (New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)
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POD noun 1. a small herd or school, especially of seals or whales. 2. a small flock of birds [1825-35, ‘American’; perhaps special facetious use of POD ((from the idea of pea or bean))] (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
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POD noun [etymology – (influenced by the ‘p’ of ‘pea’ with which it is often associated) of ‘cod’(the species of fish): a number of animals (as seals or whales) closely clustered together: SCHOOL <we lowered for a ‘pod’ of four or five whales—Herman Melville> (Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)
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POD noun: A school of marine mammals, such as seals, whales, or dolphins. Synonyms ‘flock.” [origin unknown] (American Heritage Dictionary)
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SCHOOL noun Late Middle English,.[Middle Low German, Middle Dutch ‘schôle’ (Dutch ‘school’) troop, multitude, specifically ‘school’ of whales = Old Saxon ‘scola’, Old English ‘scolu’ troop, from West Germanic word perhaps originally meaning division. Cf. SHOAL ((school of fish)) noun] 1. A shoal or large number of fish, porpoises, whales, etc., swimming together, especially whilst feeding or migrating. Late Middle English 2. t ‘transferred to’ A crowd, a large group, originally of people or things, later of birds or mammals. Now ‘rare.’ Late Middle English. (New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)
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SCHOOL noun. A large number of fish, porpoises, whales, or the like, feeding or migrating together. [1350–1400; ME ‘schol’(e) < D ‘school’; c. OE ‘scolu’ troop; see SHOAL (( school of fish)) (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
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SCHOOL noun [Etymology: Middle English ‘scole,’ from Middle Dutch ‘schole’ group especially of fish or animals of one kind, multitude; akin to Old English ‘scolu’ multitude, troop, ‘sciell’ shell — more at SHELL] 1: a large number of one kind of fish or other aquatic animals swimming or feeding together <school of dolphins> 2. A large group or flock (as of birds or people) <too busy receiving the congratulations of a ‘school’ of admirals to buttonhole her—New Yorker> (Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)
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SCHOOL noun: A large group of aquatic animals, especially fish, swimming together; a shoal. See Synonyms at flock. [Middle English ‘scole,’ from Middle Dutch. See ‘skel’ in Indo-European Roots.] (American Heritage Dictionary)
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But if you’re in Baha gazing out with your binoculars at a bunch of whales and aren’t sure exactly how many whales there are, and wouldn’t be sure what to call the group even if you were, you can cop out by saying ‘By Jove! There’s a GAM of whales off the starboard bow!!’ And people will think you might be some kind of whaleologist and will never question your word. But actually ‘gam’ suffers from about the same problem as ‘pod’ and ‘school’ – where are the boundaries of ‘large’ and ‘small?’ The New Shorter OED and Lipton (see below) seem to imply, however, that GAM is bigger than a POD (OED used the modifier ‘small’ on 'school' when defining ‘pod,’ (see above) whereas that modifier is missing on ‘school’ in their ‘gam’ definition.
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GAM noun & verb mid 19th century: Nautical – 1. A school of whales, porpoises, or dolphins. 2. A social meeting, originally specifically of whalers at sea; a chat.

verb transitive & intransitive: 1. Meet (with) socially, exchange gossip (with): originally of whalers at sea. mid 19th century 2. verb intransitive: of whales etc.: gather together , form a school – late 19th century. 3. verb intransitive ((New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)
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GAM noun: 1. a herd or school of whales 2.Eastern New England Nautical – a social meeting, visit, or the like , as between whaling vessels at sea.
verb intransitive 3. (of whales) to assemble into a herd or school. 4. Nautical (of the officers and crews of two whaling vessels) to visit or converse with one another for social purposes [1840–50, American dialect variation of GAME (an amusement or pastime) {Random House}
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GAM noun [Etymology: perhaps short for obsolete gammon talk, chatter — more at ‘gammon.’

1 : a visit or friendly conversation especially between whalers or other seamen at sea or ashore <the story . . . had been told, in ‘gam’ after ‘gam,’ wherever whaleships met— A.B.C. Whipple> <there'd be a famous ‘gam’ up and down the sandy beach— Alan Villiers>
2 : a school of whales: POD {Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged}
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GAM noun
1. A social visit or friendly interchange, especially between whalers or seafarers.
2. A herd of whales or a social congregation of whalers, especially at sea. See Synonyms at flock.

verb intransitive: To hold a visit, especially while at sea.
verb transitive: 1. To visit with. 2. To spend (time) talking or visiting.
[Perhaps short for gammon, or variant of game.] (American Heritage Dictionary)
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GAMMON noun [[checking this just for the hell of it – interesting!]]

[Etymology: obsolete English ‘gammon’ talk, chatter, perhaps from obsolete English slang gammon (in the expressions ‘give someone gammon’ to stand close to someone while another person is picking his pocket, ‘keep someone in gammon’ to divert someone's attention while another person is robbing him), perhaps from English ‘gammon’ leg, thigh, flitch of cured bacon]

: talk intended to deceive : HUMBUG <it's all gammon— G.B.Shaw>

(Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged)
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And from that wonderful old book on collective noun names An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton (page 63)

A GAM OF WHALES: A whaling voyage could last as long as three years, so when two whalers encountered each other on some remote sea, it called for a ‘gam,’ an exchange of crews via whaleboats and the ‘gamming chair.’ It was a happy time for a whaleman and, obviously, the whales’ habit of sporting playfully on the surface of the sea gave rise to this fanciful term.

A SCHOOL OF PORPOISES

A POD OF SEALS
The reference to peas in a pod is obvious. ‘Pod’ was applied by sailors to seals, and SMALL groups of whales.

A SMACK OF JELLYFISH
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Ken G - August 6, 2002
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whales: pod or school?

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Jun 28, 2004 6:01 pm

Simon, By happenstance I just came across the following while scanning today’s science news, confirming the school/pod thing (no reference to ‘gam’ however – not a surprise):

"Aug. 7, 2002 – Keiko the whale, star of the hit film 'Free Willy,' is adjusting to life in the wild after years in captivity and now lives with a SCHOOL of killer whales off Iceland's south coast. . .

The scientists know Keiko can vocalize in an Icelandic orca whale dialect. But their underwater microphone cannot distinguish his sounds from those of other whales as the noisy congregation feeds and communicates and breaks up into smaller PODS for the journey. . . "
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Ken G - August 7, 2002
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