Behind the ‘flight of stairs’

You may not know the term “nouns of assemblage” by name, but you definitely know it in practice. Nouns of assemblage are everyone’s favorite trivia question, and they’re practically never-ending: What’s a group of owls called? A parliament. Hippopotamuses? That would be a bloat.

Everyone loves a murder of crows, and we reference flights of stairs without even thinking twice about how that’s kind of a weird term for them. Though collective nouns exist in other languages, English is particularly full of these colorful, largely nonsensical linguistic specimens. In fact, many may have originated as a means to show off obscure, cultured, and self-consciously amusing vocabulary.

Who decided that certain objects and animals require specialized terms when they congregate, and why? Great question. Let’s gather to discuss.

I have had the exact same questions in the past, but did not have the patience or the time to dive deep into the etymology of these terms. This was an interesting terse read.

Source: Quartz Obsession, January 4, 2019