It's not a flange, it's a congress!

Spotted (not by me, I confess) in an Amazon book review:

In this marvelous book Smuts draws from years of painstaking field research in which she followed around a flange of chacma baboons in the Mateti Game Park in Zimbabwe. Her findings inspired the plot of When Harry Met Sally.

Fair enough, and if the film link's true a nice bit of trivia. But here's another bit of trivia: the collective noun for baboons is a congress. A flange of baboons was invented by scriptwriters on the seminal British TV comedy show Not The Nine O'Clock News for a classic sketch, 'Gerald the Gorilla' (yes, really). A fine case of fiction trying to become fact?

Gerald would have approved.

Isn't the net wondrous – I googled Not The Nine o'Clock News and found a youtube video on the Gerald sketch. Enjoy!


Blue said...

Okay.... our (US) government body is called Congress. A group of baboons is called a congress. Yep, I can see the correlation!

Anonymous said...

Why do we just not say "a group" of whatever animal?

Would that possibly be wrong?

Anonymous said...

"Group" would make things slightly easier, agreed, but the other words tend to infer more detail. There's something about a "herd of cows" (they all belong together) as opposed to a "group of cows" (random cows just hanging out together).

Plus, of course, there's immense entertainment value to be had from collective nouns. I still like "a murder of crows" (is that apocryphal?) but my absolute favourite has to be "a bloat of hippos". No, really.

Apus said...

Far as I know a group of crows really are (is?) referred to as a murder, Gareth; my birdwatching chum tells me there's also a parliament of rooks and a charm or goldfinches. Yep, it's entertaining. Though I do like the idea of random cows just hanging out – since I saw my first Larsen cartoon I've always wondered how laid back our bovine chums are when we aren't looking.

Blue, your congressmen may act like baboons but believe me, our MPs would be thrown out of any well run congress of baboons for rowdy behaviour!

You're right Tootsync, group is always correct – but it's fun dropping some of those obscure nouns into conversation. I just checked and, yes, there's a website for collective nouns which looks just the job:

It includes lots of ideas for new collective nouns too, starting rather cleverly with an aarmoury of aardvarks.

Anonymous said...

There is also "a flock of crows."

It's one thing to have fun.

But in news copy, wouldn't "group of baboons" be clearer than "a congress of baboons"?

As for cows, well, if they're hanging out together, they're a herd. That's how herd animals are. When they get close to one another, they assume they're suddenly all connected, whether they were 20 minutes ago or not. It's called the herd instinct.

And "herd" I have no objection to. People have heard of it. (They may also have heard the herd, but I digress.)

But "congress"? A "bloat" of hippos? If you read that in a publication, would you know what they meant?

TootsNYC: "A group of cows..."
Gareth: "Herd."
Toots: "Heard what?"
Gareth: "Herd of cows."
Toots: "Sure, I've heard of cows!"

Anonymous said...

OK, I couldn't resist

my apologies, in advance

Gez said...

Come on chaps, ever heard of video embed? Great find though. Do you think this is a case of a writer knowingly getting one over on his or her copy editor?

JD (The Engine Room) said...

OK Gez, it's now embedded! You learn something new every day...

Anonymous said...

"It's not a flange, it's a congress!" - this should read Its a flange or a congress. Flange has become accepted nomenclature so you're wrong.