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You’d never bother to look this up in an atlas, but…

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By BEN OLSON/for The Herald  —  A murder of crows, an exultation of larks, a dule of doves and a flamboyance of flamingos. Geese are in a gaggle, unless, of course, they’re flying, then they are a skein, the same word describing a loose coil of yarn. While I’m doing birds, I’ll offer up a cast or kettle of hawks, a charm of goldfinches, a richness of martens and a parliament of owls.

You might ask why I would need to know this arcana, and, further, why I would be putting it in a column for my readers when I could be writing something, well, weightier. As with many discussions with my son, one thing leads to another, and first thing you know, we’ve traveled down a rabbit hole and only the internet has access to the answer. The original question was, “what do you call a group of sasquatch?” To my knowledge, no one has ever reported seeing more than one of them at a time, so why would we need a special word for a group of them? 

The term sasquatch is believed to be the anglicization of the Salish word “sasq’ets” meaning wild man or hairy man. J. W. Burns, a Canadian Indian agent coined the word, as we know it, in the 1930’s. Various sources on the internet say that the plural is “sasquatches”, while others say that, like deer or moose, sasquatch is both singular and plural.

If you’ve ever been troubled by a labor of moles in your lawn, a prickle of porcupines teasing your dog, a stench of skunks burrowing under your shed or a scurry of squirrels cleaning out your birdfeeder, you now have the accepted plural form with which to curse them. If you’re out fishing, you may hope to encounter a shoal of bass or a hover of trout, be surprised by a troubling of goldfish and pray that a smack of jellyfish and an aggregation of manatees doesn’t surround your boat.

If you head off to Africa on safari, you are apt to see a zeal of zebras, perhaps being stalked by an ambush of tigers or a leap of leopards, while a tower of giraffes, a bloat of hippopotami and a crash of rhinoceroses look on. It’s just a matter of time before a cackle of hyenas show up. I’m having trouble stopping now, so I will indulge you with a few more, at random. A gaze of raccoons, a shiver of sharks, a rhumba of rattlesnakes and an unkindness of ravens. What did the ravens do to deserve that group sobriquet?  

The next time you get dragged into court, may the peers who will be hearing your case be a jury of sasquatch. Yes, according to one source, that is the name for a group of sasquatch. What are the chances that they could round up twelve of them? You still may lose the case, but it certainly would be entertaining and something you could tell your grandchildren.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass. Ben is a regular contributor, as well as the Entertainment Report’s columnist. Ben Olson photo

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