I went to a thing last night and it was very, very good. That’s right — a thing. As opposed to an event, a meeting, a show, a performance or an assembly.
It was a thing, where some people spoke and said things that other people agreed with, or didn’t as the case might be. Some of the people who said things were very formal, while others said things at a distance, or even in an entirely different room. Some people, wearing suits, I noticed, were asking other people to be quiet, which is something I can understand as one with a history of getting into trouble for telling ill-mannered audience members to shut up. Remind me to tell you about that some time, my favourite gig story.
Anyway, I wasn’t part of that little contretemps, since I’d never dream of talking while other people are giving speeches, though by the same token, I’d never dream of hanging around either and that’s why I found myself in a different room, sharing a chat with like-minded folk, when somehow or other, the talk turned to collective nouns.
How does that happen? I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with all the wine.
What’s the collective noun for Artist? asked someone.
A Pretence? suggested someone.
No, said someone else. An Insecurity.
How about an Incompetence? suggested a voice from the back.
That’s terrible. Stop!
Sorry, said one of our people. How about senior council administrators?
In this town? There’s only one word: a Demotion.
Ambitious small-town journalists?
We all paused to survey the place we inhabited.
It’s a beautiful space to be drinking free wine, we all agreed. Beautiful. Who designed it?
The architect, Hugh de Fromage.
Why do some words attract the definite article?
What do you mean?
You said THE architect.
Why didn’t you say AN architect?
Because, well, eh, because …
You wouldn’t say THE plumber, Festy McGonagle, would you? Or THE bricklayer, Tony Sluggard. So why do you say THE architect?
People were getting excited.
What about THE poet?
True, agreed the fellow at the back. Some gobshite pulls on a dickie-bow, tears a page out of a copybook, scribbles down some half-digested bullshit that doesn’t rhyme, makes no sense and bores the shit out of you, but now you have to call him THE poet Desmond O’Drunkard, instead of calling him A pretentious fool.
People were getting restless. What does this have to do with collective nouns?
Very little, said a sensible man. Get us another glass there, will you? The collective noun for poets is an Obscurity. Or failing that, an Indignation.
Obvious. There’s only one possible collective noun for architects: a Condescension.
So, where does that leave plumbers and bricklayers?
You can’t be serious.
You don’t know the collective noun for plumbers and bricklayers?
What else? They’re the lads.