A Plunge of Bungee-Jumpers

The Home Forum received hundreds of postcards in answer to a little challenge issued on this page, Feb. 22, about collective nouns. Here are some of your more creative ideas.

I HAVE always been quite clear about why I am not a bungee-jumper. Now I think I also know why I am not an administrator, an investigative journalist, or an ex-president. I am not -- it turns out as a result of sifting through an influx of postcards sent in by a countlessness of readers -- much of a statistician, either.

Nine ''types'' (including ex-presidents but not statisticians) were looking for the collective term that would be perfect for them.

We have been dilatory with our response to this response because there appears to be an overwhelmment of collective-noun-inventors. We eventually had to dam the card flood, still impressively unabating.

To you all, may we say, like Hamlet, we are ''poor in thanks, but we thank you.''

* * *

The nine types were: administrators; performance artists; couch potatoes; bungee-jumpers; baby boomers; antique collectors; friends of the earth; investigative journalists; and ex-presidents.

Some answers proved to have a rather stunning degree of consensus. Three instances come to mind: Many of you agree that ''a snoop'' is the thing for investigative journalists. For antique collectors, ''a dusting'' is very popular. And bungee-jumpers suggest, above all, ''a stretch.'' Who are we to argue? All three are excellent.

For some of the other types there was a consensus of concept, if not of word. Ex-presidents are, it seems, above all creatures of the golf course. So the collectives you came up with variously include ''a golf cart,'' ''a fairway,'' ''a foursome'' (or ''foresome,'' h-m-m-m-m-m), and ''a caddy.''

As for couch potatoes, these do-nothings paradoxically set imaginations going like nobody's business. The lively response for them came up with ''a slouch,'' ''a sack,'' ''a slack,'' ''a slump,'' ''a lethargy,'' ''a languor,'' and ''an inertia,'' among many others. At least six answers settled for ''a mash,'' which is certainly the job for potatoes, and may well be the best thing to do to the couch variety.

Apart from ''a dusting,'' antique collectors brought forth a number of clever words, most with two or more advocates: ''a patina,'' ''an attic,'' ''a cobweb,'' ''an auction,'' and ''a haggle.'' ''A horde'' or ''a hoard'' also hit the spot.

Small groups of you agreed about friends of the earth, too: You proposed ''a pod'' or ''a greening.''

For the other categories, there was some degree of agreement that administrators might come in ''a delegation''; ex-presidents in ''a sigh'' or ''a museum,'' ''a shelving,'' or ''a pasture''; bungee-jumpers in ''a rebound,'' ''a plunge,'' ''a thrill,'' ''a yo-yo,'' or ''a dangle.''

The poor old baby boomers did not inspire much of anything. The most you could agree on was the unexceptional ''an explosion.''

It was the investigative journalists and the administrators who evidently stirred your emotions most. These people are not much liked! The first are seen as ''an intrusion,'' ''a persistence,'' ''a prying,'' ''a probe,'' ''a poke,'' and ''a scandal.'' All quite accurate, of course.

Rather a clever one was ''a press.'' As for administrators en masse, they are ''a boardroom'' or ''boredroom,'' a ''self-congratulation,'' ''a confusion,'' and ''a justification.'' And these are some of the kinder terms. Overall, this class of personage might be termed ''an unpopularity.''

* * *

Now to name some names.

For originality:

Ted and Wendy Rose who gave an inside view on ''a tedium of administrators'' (having done the job).

Emily Johnson for ''an incubation of baby boomers.'' (Perhaps Emily is a poultry farmer?)

Carolyn Martin for ''an enervation of couch potatoes.'' (Surely the perfect word.)

The Derryfield School seventh-grade geography class for ''an ecosystem of friends of the earth.'' Rick Zeller, teacher, now has to keep his promise of pizza for all. (I like anchovies and mushrooms.)

Cherry Stevens for ''a meddle of administrators'' and ''a nostalgia of ex-presidents.''

Lucy Bair Goodell for arriving at nine collectives all ending in ''-ation,'' the best, ''a sensation of bungee-jumpers,'' ''a preservation of antique collectors,'' and ''a revelation of investigative journalists.''

Paul Reid for ''an oversight of administrators'' -- a nice double meaning there.

Ann Benson for ''a lemming of bungee-jumpers.''

C. Crys Cooper for ''a Gaea of friends of the earth.''

J. Dustin for ''a jog of baby boomers'' (maybe baby boomers did inspire some contributors after all).

Nick and George Butko (names obscured by postmark) for ''a comeback of bungee-jumpers'' and ''a relief of ex-presidents.''

Ann Tweedy and Paul Peak, both unknown to each other, I'm sure, for ''a putter of ex-presidents.''

Herb Morgan for about the only really satisfactory collective noun offered for ''performance artists'' (who are not ''performing artists,'' as many appeared to think): ''a funding.''

Dick Van Der Laan for ''a jargon of administrators'' (ah yes, they are the brainstorming-babble bottom-liners, we know).

Cecilia and Gabriel Manrique for ''an elastication of bungee-jumpers.''

The entire Bontrager family (''a brainstorming of Bontragers'') for -- among multiple choices -- ''a rummage of antique collectors'' and ''an embarrassment of ex-presidents.'' More pizza called for here, I reckon.

And finally, there are those who seemed to us to excel not just once or twice but eight or nine times: We would mention Tom Reagan and Dick Van Der Laan and (is twice too much?) Tom Reagan.

The oscar for best collection of collectives, however, is reserved for Dennis Lynch and Linda Klena. We award them top marks for appropriateness and wit. Their answers are not all unique; but ''perfectness'' can be held in common with others.

Here, in due glory, are the Lynch/Klena team's suggestions:

A stall of administrators

An installation of performance artists

A slack of couch potatoes

A rebound of bungee-jumpers

A bid of antique collectors

A conserve of friends of the earth

A pry of investigative journalists

An honorarium of ex-presidents

And from us: a rhapsody of congratulations.

* In answer to a number of queries, the book ''Ounce, Dice, Twice,'' though very recently available as a reprint, is now once again ,sadly ,out of print.

We are glad, however, to thank Katherine and Walter Sharp for alerting us to another book we did not know is still available. Now in paperback only, this is ''An Exaltation of Larks,'' by James Lipton, published by Grossman Publishers, at $12.50.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to A Plunge of Bungee-Jumpers
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today