A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a Medina County Schools Educational Service Center book discussion group for teachers led by Dorothy Ulich. Dorothy is a Lafayette Township resident and a retired English teacher.
The occasion was extra special because one of the members of the group was Heidi Sarvis-Sapp— one of my former English teachers, whom I had not seen since I graduated from Sparta-Highland High School in Morrow County 25 years ago.
(I am forever explaining to people around here that my Highland is the real Highland and that Medina-Highland and Berlin-Hiland are mere usurpers. Go Fighting Scots!) Some readers may recognize Heidi’s name because she also taught at Black River High School. She’s now teaching in Bellevue, Ohio, and about to embark on her 29th year in the classroom.
It was good to see her. We stood together for a picture, which I later showed to my wife. She observed that my former teacher looks younger than I do! Just goes to show what happens when one chooses the righteous path of teaching grammar and literature to young people, versus the cheap and tawdry life of a newspaper man.
I was glad to know at least one of my former teachers is still at it. I have long since reached the age at which almost all professional baseball players are younger than I am and many of my former teachers and professors have gone on to glory.
By “glory” I mean retirement, of course.
It made me realize that after my family, so much of who I am is a result of the caring work of teachers like Heidi. She was the first journalism teacher I ever had and I use what I learned in her classroom every day.
She encouraged me in my first paying journalism job with the Sunbury News— covering high school sports for the princely sum of $7.50 per story.
So, I am deeply grateful to her and to all the others who taught and mentored me through elementary school, junior high, high school and college. I think of them every day.
And just to prove you can’t leave a roomful of teachers without learning something new, Dorothy handed me a copy of a fun exercise the group was doing on collective nouns. These are nouns like “team” or “family” that refer to groups of individuals.
Collective nouns given to groups of animals are especially colorful. Some are familiar: a herd of cows, a swarm of bees, a pride of lions. Some are fairly instinctive: a stretch of giraffes, a cackle of hyenas, a plague of locusts. Others are downright odd: a rabble of butterflies, a pipe of eels, a shrewness of apes.
According to a reference cited in Dorothy’s handout, many of the words date back as far as the “Book of St. Albans,” published in 1486.
Some are thought to have been chosen strictly for the humorous or poetic images they conjure, which is only fair. Why should scientists have all the fun of naming new discoveries? Surely poets deserve the honor once in a while.
It can be a little addictive when you allow your imagination to invent a few collective nouns for yourself.
What would you call a group of Catholics but a mass? I also came up with: a nag of mother-in-laws (feel free to credit that one to someone else), an opine of columnists, a blather of politicians.
I know school hasn’t started yet, but here’s a little test involving a baker’s dozen collective nouns. See if you can match the singular animal names below with the real collective nouns that describe a group of those animals.
Singular animal name
1. Cat _____ 2. Buzzard _____ 3. Bear _____ 4. Nightingale _____ 5. Dove _____ 6. Raven _____ 7. Mouse _____ 8. Crow _____ 9. Kangaroo _____ 10. Toad _____ 11. Pheasant _____ 12. Finch _____ 13. Shark _____
A. Wake B. Knot C. Clutter D. Murder E. Shiver F. Mischief G. Bouquet H. Sleuth I. Charm J. Unkindness K. Prettying L. Mob M. Watch
1. C; 2. A; 3. H; 4. M; 5. K; 6. J; 7. F; 8. D; 9. L; 10. B; 11. G; 12. I; 13. E
If you got 0 to 4 correct, you’re a newspaper columnist. If you got 5 to 9 right, you’re a newspaper crossword puzzle genius.
If you got 10 to 13 correct, you’re an English teacher. Congratulations, thank you, and good luck on the start of a new school year.
Contact John Gladden at email@example.com.