With Google’s ‘Penguin Updates’ all around us, could all you copywriters and journalists introduce a new collective noun or two into your articles and blog posts to make it all a little more interesting?

It’s not as though you’re limited in the number of options available.  Maybe one reason we don’t see phrases like ‘flocks of Penguin Updates’ could be that no-one’s given it a second thought.  After all, algorithms and SEO don’t naturally invite poetic turns of speech.

For the benefit of writer-types everywhere, I’ve cobbled together a few thoughts on Penguin plurality…

Apparently, the collective noun for a group of birds of any feather is a ‘flock’.  OK so far.  Look a little more closely and you’ll find the delightfully-named ‘charm of gold-finches’.  Compare and contrast with ‘a deceit’ of lapwings’!  I love the phrase ‘exaltation of larks’ – and there’s something weirdly appropriate about ‘a parliament of owls’!

Then there are times when the collective noun changes according to the immediate circumstances of the bird in question.  We’ve all heard about ‘a gaggle of geese’.  This applies when they’re on the ground.  When they’re in flight, however, you must say ‘a skein’.  Likewise with swans.  In flight, they’re ‘a wedge’.  At other times, you’ll get away with ‘a game’ of swans.

Back to penguins: if they’re bobbing on the sea surface, the word to use (logically) is ‘a raft’.  If they’re all together, on land, at the South Pole or on a Falkland Island or two, you can say ‘a rookery’ or ‘huddle’.

For some reason, there are more ways to describe groups of penguins than almost any other bird.  The consensus seems to be that the sweet-sounding and alliterative ‘parade of penguins’ wins the day.  A close second comes ‘a colony’ – with all the other names vying for some kind of air-time.

Hopefully, Buzzwords has performed a public service by drawing the attention of writers to more attractive ways of describing what Google may christen ‘Penguin 2.0’ at some time in the near future.  Whatever happens, you must admit that ‘A Parade of Penguin Updates’ deserves its place at the top of the copywriting pecking order.

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