Loveliness of ladybugs gets us through pandemic

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Where does your mind go to while you’re waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic? I mean, you can bake only so much bread, watch only this many Netflix shows, and grow only that many tomatoes. At some point you have to make a quantum mental leap and move on to another level of consciousness.

That’s exactly what happened to me the other day. It started off innocently enough when my wife, who was checking out her social network feeds, asked me if I knew what the name for a group of ladybugs was. As it turns out, the official collective noun for ladybugs is a “loveliness.”

Imagine. A loveliness of ladybugs. You know, like a herd of cattle, a pack of wolves, a flock of pigeons. A loveliness of ladybugs. Isn’t that just . . . lovely? Mind you, if there was a swarm of the little aphid-munching critters hatching between my bedsheets while I was trying to get a little shuteye, I doubt whether “loveliness” would be the first word out of my mouth.

At any rate, that was all I needed to set me off on a binge of google searching to find other group names for animals. Some of these, such as a gaggle of geese or a pride of lions, came as no surprise. On the other hand, a committee of raccoons or a congress of baboons did indeed tickle the imagination as to how these names were first assigned to these particular animals. A bit of a creepy feeling came over me when my search revealed a murder of crows and a congregation of crocodiles. However, there were other group names that seemed logical and just plain right. Who can object to a shrewdness of apes or a pounce of cats?

For some obscure reason, hummingbirds have somehow achieved the “motherlode” of collective noun group names. There are no fewer than six different words you can use to describe a roving gang of these tiny winged creatures. They can be called a bouquet, a glittering, a hover, a shimmer, a charm, or a tune.

Having all this COVID-19 time on my hands, it occurred to me that why should these group collective nouns be restricted to the animal world? Why not have them for all groups of anything? And if they don’t actually exist, then I’m just the person to inflict these new monikers on the English language.

The first few came to me easily. I closed my eyes to envision a scrum of reporters trying to coax insipid sound bites out of a scourge of politicians. A few moments later I imagined a covenant of conservationists circulating a protestation of petitions to ban the use of a choke of pollutants.

Hey, this was starting to become a fun activity. Perhaps I could patent the idea as a board game and make a fortune selling it to a dullness of idiots.

The words and ideas started rushing around my brain. A tangle of coat hangers conjured up the inevitable picture. Likewise did a spandex of cyclists. You might see the world as being divided between a bluebox of recyclers and a squander of dumpsters. Would you rather join a pollyanna of optimists or a despair of pessimists? Speaking of optimists, another possibility for a collective group name could be glass-half-full. 

There are so many more possibilities. Consider an inkling of premonitions, a slumber of mattresses, or a pythagoras of triangles. Isn’t it time you thinned out that attraction of magnets cluttering up the front of your fridge? And while you’re cleaning your personal space, how about gathering up that felt of belly-button lint you’ve been carrying around with you?

The field of medicine is rife with possible group names for its many specialties. If you are experiencing vision problems, you might want to consult someone from the myopia of optometrists. If skin issues are bothering you, you might need a session with a practitioner from the blemish of dermatologists. You may find that your condition is not a skin issue at all, but just the result of an infestation by a scratch of head lice. Perhaps your problems are merely physical manifestations of unresolved issues in your brain. You could benefit from a physician affiliated with the rorschach of psychiatrists. At the other end of your anatomy, you may seek the expertise of a member of the finger of proctologists.

Mind you, in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe I’ve been thinking back-asswards about this entire collective group name business. Hasn’t our provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, been pleading with us for months to avoid crowds and restrict the size of our groups? Sure, go tell a murder of crows that they shouldn’t be gathering in groups of 50 or more. Let’s see you be the one to walk up to a congregation of crocodiles ripping apart a bloated hippo body and inform them that they can only dine in parties of six or less.

No, social distancing and family-unit isolating goes against the very grain of group formation and behaviour. Dr. Henry’s oft spoken mantra, “be kind, be calm, be safe” may be just the ticket we need to flatten the rate of infection curve, but it will achieve bupkis when a congress of baboons are screeching it out in a free-for-all to determine which ape will ascend to the role of alpha leader.

Nobody asked me, but there is no shortage of thoughts and activities that can occupy our consciousness until the time when the “new normal” finally arrives. Whether it’s making furniture, playing online Scrabble, quilting tapestries, solving Rubik’s cubes, or, in my case, creating nonsensical group names for just about everything, it all helps to strengthen the faith most of us share that “this too shall pass.” And strictly between you, me, and a cloud of thousands of ladybugs, wouldn’t that just be a loveliness?

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