Tuesday, 17 September 2019

for the nonce

Though not usually in the business of documenting isolated uses, we discover nonetheless via the Oxford English Dictionary word of the day subscription service a rather delightful example in Ogden Nash’s one-off murdermongeress, appearing in a 1957 poetic reflection on Agatha Christie, whom was fairly singular in her field but nowadays the crime writer genre is more equitable.  Presumably non-gendered, a murdermonger was a term used in the late 1700s for a professional killer. A flock of crows is called a murder purely for arbitrary reasons compiled in a rather fanciful book on venery that sought to ennoble or debase animals based on the characteristics we assume them to have (see also)—that and their presence at the gallows. Relatedly, in the company of ravens we encounter three different names depending on the group’s activity: a constabulary (keeping watch, as over the Tower of London), an unkindness (see above) or a conspiracy (hunting in packs rather than scavenging alone).