It is my duty and privilege to spread the news that today is a national holiday—not one that is commonly observed, but still—March 4 is officially National Grammar Day. It’s a day in which grammar geeks and word nerds can rally around whatever it is they (we!) love most about the English language.
This year the collective noun is on my mind. Here’s what what the New Oxford American Dictionary has to say about them:
collective noun :: a noun that denotes a group of individuals (e.g., assembly, family, crew).
usage: Examples of collective nouns include group, crowd, family, committee, class, crew, and the like. In the US, collective nouns are usually followed by a singular verb ( the crowd was nervous), while in Britain it is more common to follow a collective noun with a plural verb ( the band were late for their own concert). Notice that if the verb is singular, any following pronouns must also be singular: the council is prepared to act, but not until it has taken a poll. When preceded by the definite article the, the collective noun number is usually treated as a singular ( the number of applicants was beyond belief), whereas it is treated as a plural when preceded by the indefinite article a ( a number of proposals were considered).
Two years ago, my husband gave me the most thoughtful of Christmas gifts—this beautifully illustrated book on collective nouns, titled A Compendium of Collective Nouns. (I am well-known and well-loved.) It unfolds, in alphabetical order, a collective noun for a word starting with that letter. Here are three pages of illustrations depicting a charm of finches, a kaleidoscope of butterflies, and a loveliness of ladybirds:
Delightful, isn’t it?
Since National Grammar Day isn’t an observed holiday, my celebrations will be limited to this tribute to collective nouns and perhaps a few social media posts. But in my heart, I’m a grammar party animal.
How are you celebrating today?