Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The collective nouns of school nativity plays

I was leading a nativity service at the Church. The atmosphere was noisy in a pleasant, expectant sort of way. All the while, children ran past me in costume --- here a shepherd, there a king or three. And then it happened: I saw a young child dressed as an angel. She was young (maybe five years of age?), and she flounced.
Image result for knitted nativity scene    I like collective nouns, and find myself looking for new ones. Some are obvious: it's a herd of cattle, a swarm of bees, a school of dolphins. Some are well-known but strange, such as an unkindness of ravens. I find some to be bizarre: what's the collective noun of hermits? Surely, there cannot be a collective of hermits precisely because they are hermits!? (In fact it's a conference of hermits, because the men we know today as the Desert Fathers lived in isolation in the wastes of the Syrian desert, but came together for the Eucharist each Sunday. They conferred. And in much the same way, delegates come together to confer at conferences today.)
   So I'm inventing a set of new collective nouns: it's a flounce of children dressed as angels. Let's go further. It's a pomposity of children dressed as Wise Men. A shambles of Inn Keepers. A desperation of Infant-School teachers. An exhaustion of pre-Christmas clergy. It's a cloying of proud grandparents. A chaos of shepherd costumes. But it's still a peacefulness of china-clay Christ-child babies.

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