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Cheeky Beasts

My original mosaics feature Alice and her friend, the Dodo, and others. Inspired by the original drawings for Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass by Sir John Tenniel.

One of the many delights of the English language is the huge variety of collective nouns that people have created to describe different groups of creatures. Not content with perfectly serviceable terms like ‘herd or ‘pack’, they have conjured up a veritable lexicon in an attempt to convey something very particular about how each animal looks or behaves. So we have ‘A Scurry of Squirrels’, ‘A Caravan of Camels’ and ‘A Prickle of Hedgehogs’.
This linguistic entertainment has been around for centuries, certainly since the Late Middle Ages. ‘The Boke of Seynt Albans’ (or, in plainer English, ‘The Book of Saint Albans’) dated 1486 was a 15th century gentleman’s guide to hawking, hunting and heraldry. An appendix to the book listed “Company terms”, or collective nouns, for birds, animals and people where, alongside furry and feathered creatures, you find such human collectives as a 'blast of hunters', a 'melody of harpers' and a 'superfluity of nuns'!
Collective nouns were especially beloved by the Victorians who had a particular passion for listing, cataloguing and – quite literally, in the case of butterflies – pinning everything down for posterity and this tradition has persisted wherever English is spoken.

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