A Study Of The English Language

The English language can be confusing, especially to foreigners who are learning it. The following curious anecdote has a good illustration regarding this, and it also contains an ingenious collection of words:

A Frenchman, while looking at a number of vessels, exclaimed, ‘See what a flock of ships!’ He was told that a flock of ships was called a fleet, but that a fleet of sheep was called a flock. To assist him in mastering the intricacies of the English language, he was told that a flock of girls was called a bevy, that a bevy of wolves is called a pack, but that a pack of cards is never called a bevy, though a pack of thieves is called a gang, and a gang of angels is called a host, while a host of porpoises is termed a shoal. He was told that a host of oxen is termed a herd, and a herd of children is called a troop, and a troop of partridges is termed a covey, and a covey of beauty is called a galaxy, and a galaxy of ruffians is called a horde, and a horde of rubbish is called a heap, and a heap of bullocks is called a drove, and a drove of blackguards is called a mob, and a mob of whales is called a school, and a school of worship is called a congregation, and a congregation of engineers is called a corps, and a corps of robbers is called a band, and a band of locusts is called a crowd, and a crowd of gentlefolks is called the elite. The last word being French, the scholar understood it and asked no more.


The Gentleman’s Journal, Vol. 3, March 1871

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is edmarklaw@learnfunfacts.com

25 thoughts on “A Study Of The English Language

  1. The English language…..hmm, once you see that it has more exceptions than rules it
    is a matter of listening and reading. 😊 . Amalgamated from so many languages English is
    very interesting. I love how the world Elite proved this.
    As a comfort I dare say that most countries have different words for similar meanings depending on context. All good for a laugh as long as we understand each other.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. English is a tough language to learn – it has many words that sound the same, look different and have very different meanings, not to mention the double entendres. I learned more about English grammar when I took French in college. Unfortunately three years of French are not much good if you don’t use it whether it is conversing or writing it or reading it. I hardly remember anything now.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It is remarkable, when you sit and consider it, how complex the English language is. Of course, every language has its highlights, but English especially has many quirks. One of my favorites is pluralization of nouns (e.g. child to children, mouse to mice). I hadn’t thought before about how many classifiers for groups English has. (One might argue that Chinese also has a host of classifiers to memorize.)


  4. I have great respect for those who attempt to learn English as a second language. It is my native tongue but I can see it would be confusing to learn. My attempts to study French & Spanish help me see what a huge task it is to learn another language.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This was extremely funny! Wouldn’t it be hilarious if an English language teacher used this for a class one day. She would say, “Today we are going to do something different…”. I bet the students would be begging to go back to the “normal” class teachings.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I can’t see where the arrogance is in a teacher showing in a brief story the complexities of his own language. Most English speakers are happy to say how beautiful and complex is the language of the French.

      Liked by 2 people

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