The ‘only known joke about collective nouns’

I was listening to radio last night, and laughed my head clean off when I heard this joke – billed as ‘the only known joke about collective nouns’.

I hunted it down and pinched it off the Time website for your pleasure:

Four dons were walking down an Oxford street one evening. All were philologists and members of the English department. They were discussing group nouns: a covey of quail, a pride of lions, an exaltation of larks.

As they talked, they passed four ladies of the evening. The dons did not exactly ignore the hussies—in a literary way, that is. One of them asked: “How would you describe a group like that?”

Suggested the first: “A jam of tarts?” The second: “A flourish of strumpets?” The third: “An essay of Trollope’s?” Then the dean of the dons, the eldest and most scholarly of them all, closed the discussion: “I wish that you gentlemen would consider ‘An anthology of pros.’ “

5 responses to “The ‘only known joke about collective nouns’”

  1. Andy Nattan says:

    Hugely amusing. Good spot!

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  3. Ken says:

    When I heard it years ago it included “a pride of loins” as one of the descriptors.

  4. Tony Gaetano says:

    Heard this joke in 1962, at college, from our most entertaining professor of English.

  5. Stephen Kane says:

    In the version I heard, the punchline is “an anthology of old English pros.”

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