Friday, May 17, 2013

Talk Strong!

by Pa Rock

Several tornadoes touched down in Texas, near the city of Granbury, the night before last.  At least six people were killed and some others are still missing.  One of the tornadoes was rated an F-4, which is fairly significant on a power scale that tops out at F-5.  (An F-4 can have 3-second wind gusts between 166 and 200 miles per hour.)

While listening to a National Public Radio broadcast regarding the Texas tornadoes yesterday morning, my typist’s sensibilities were offended when I heard the reporter refer to the incident as “a bevy of tornadoes.”

Bevy?  Really?  If the reporter was just going to grab a collective noun out of thin air, why couldn’t she have chosen one a little more colorful – or forceful.  We are discussing one of nature’s most violent events.  Bevy, indeed!

Many collective nouns originated in the Middle Ages and have come down to the present day in literature and common parlance.  Bevy, according to Internet sources (and if it’s on the Internet it must be true), is an acceptable collective noun for a group of swans, quail, or larks, but nary a reference was made regarding tornadoes.  In fact, I accessed multiple lists of collective nouns and found no mention of tornadoes at all.  So, it would appear, we are in uncharted territory.

There are several collective nouns currently in use that would, in my opinion, do a better job of describing a gaggle group of tornadoes.   “Swarm,” often used to denote large accumulations of ants or bees, is a bit more colorful and has at least a hint of danger.  “Troop,” which can describe a gathering of baboons, has some force to it and adds an alliterative quality – “a troop of tornadoes.”  “Pounce,” a term sometimes used with cats, would highlight the quickness and energy of tornadoes.

Why couldn’t “siege” be borrowed from a grouping of herons and given over to tornadoes?  Certainly an entire family hiding in a dank cellar or crammed into a bathtub would feel that they were under siege.  “Plague,” often used to describe an infestation of insects, would also be symbolic of the personal devastation brought on by an onslaught of tornadoes.  Or how about “rout?”  A “rout” of tornadoes seems far more graphically understandable than the word’s standard collective noun usage – to describe a group of snails.

Or, continuing to borrow from collective nouns that are already in use, why not appropriate “scream” from swifts, “murder” from crows and magpies, or, and this is my personal favorite, “ambush” from tigers?

Another option, of course, would be to come up with an entirely new collective noun to describe a large, roaring group of tornadoes.  Here are some ideas that crossed my old, gray mind:  a “blast” of tornadoes, a “slam dance” of tornadoes, or a “scram” of tornadoes.  How about a "trial" of tornadoes, or even a "shock" of tornadoes?

Certainly an organization with the reach and resources of National Public Radio could come up with a better tornadic collective descriptor than “bevy.”   A bevy of beer bottles or beautiful babes, maybe, but not a bevy of tornadoes.  That’s just an affront to the power of language.


Xobekim said...

Bevy belongs to the beautiful, I agree. I may have heard it said, or had it running through my mind, that this phenomenon is referred to as an outbreak of tornadoes.

This reminds me of a jailbreak, because escaping prisoners are also dangerous.

Anonymous said...

That's why you're the writer!