"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, September 12, 2011

Things you learn reading the letters to the editor...

Denise Corcoran of Anchorage had a few words for the Anchorage Daily News, so she sent them to the paper.  The ADN printed her letter in the Letters to the Editor column Saturday.

Under the letter's headline, "A newspaper filled with words might use new ones now and then,"   she goosed the paper for using the word "flock" when referring to some Canada geese, noting the correct collective noun is "gaggle."

Well, "flock"  also is a recognized term for geese, but "gaggle" is ever so much more fun.

She continued, "A group of geese in flight is called a 'skein."

And when they're flying in a "V" formation, it's called a "wedge,"  she wrote.

Love those collective nouns--a murder of crows, unkindness of ravens, tidings of magpies.   Sometimes you wonder about their origin and suspect there's a personal element involved.

I made up one of my own after watching baby mountain goats bouncing and bounding around the steep rocky mountains:  Gambol.  A gambol of goats.

"Tidings" of magpies?  How about "mischief" of magpies or "trouble" of magpies?  Or, "chatter" or squirrels?  A "screech" of sulpher-crested cockatoos?  If you've ever been around one, you'll understand that one.

Denise asked the newspaper to throw us some new words once in a while.

The day after letter appeared, she might have got her wish.  Not a new word, but surely a word seldom used in this application:   "The day began in crystalline sunlight and endlessly blue skies but soon whipsawed into a decade of war, economic meltdown and deep political division."*

The italics and underlining are mine, intended to point out the word "whipsawed."  That's a fine use of the word in that particular sentence.

And once again, I am reminded of the astonishing and imaginative use of words in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

*The quote was written by David Goldstein of McClatchy Newspapers.


  1. The joy of using words creatively is never ending.

    I agree that THE BOOK THIEF is exceptional.

  2. I like "...a battalion of sharks"..