Sunday, October 24, 2010

Video vocabulary quiz and a look at some collective nouns

A recent post (Let's not call a spade a spade) included the expression ‘to know someone in the biblical sense’, meaning to have a sexual relationship with them. This expression is informal and is usually used humorously. In a sketch from the British TV comedy show ‘Not the nine o clock news’, 'Gerald the gorilla', there is a rather more obvious variation - ‘to live with someone in the biblical sense’, with the same meaning.
What on earth is a 'a congregation of crocodiles'. We take a look at the strange world of collective nouns.

Before you watch the video do these exercises and read the notes that follow them. There is also a printable version of the exercises available.

Click and drop - Match the beginnings and endings by clicking on a word or expression on the right (abc) etc and then on its corresponding box (123) etc. If you change your mind just repeat the process.

1. Match these word with their synonyms, definitions

1. breakthrough (n)a)be played very loudly
2. forefront (n)b)yellow flower that appears in early Spring
3. actual (adj)c)(slang) a way of referring to sexually attractive women (NB can be considered offensive)
4. ungrateful (adj)d)advertisement on radio or TV
5. diction (n)e)real
6. actually (adv)f)the way someone pronounces words, and especially how clearly they do so
7. daffodil (n)g)exciting new development (especially in science and technology)
8. blare out (phr v)h)not thanking someone
9. crumpet (n - uncountable)i)leading or very important position
10. commercial (n)j)in fact

2. The word wild can have several meanings, look at the uses in these sentences with the meanings on the right.

1. When the boss heard I’d lost the contract he went absolutely wild.a)not sensible, accurate or justified
2. Remember that the tiger in the jungle is a wild animal.b)enthusiastic, keen
3. That was a wild party last night.c)very angry, livid (very very angry)
4. I’m just wild about Saffron, and Saffron’s wild about me (from a song by Donovan)d)in its natural state, not tame
5. You’re always making wild accusations.e)very enjoyable, great

3. The word mate also has several meanings

1. Excuse me mate, do you know where the station is?a)somebody whose job is to help a skilled worker
2. I’m just off to the pub to meet some mates, do you fancy joining us?b)sexual partner (especially of animals)
3. The male bird uses its colourful tail to attract a mate.c)informal greeting, usually to a man (traditionally from another man, but increasingly also from women)
4. Do you know my flatmate Sarah?d)friend
5. He works as a builder’s mate.e)somebody you share something with

Notes

The following two people are referred to in the sketch:
  • David Attenborough - a famous and very popular naturalist and presenter of TV natural history programmes.
  • Johnny Mathis - a singer of mainly romantic ballads. This type of singer is sometimes called a crooner.
In this sketch a woman interviews a professor about his work training a Gorilla called Gerald to speak.
Try watching the video once without looking at the transcript, and then a second time scrolling through the transcript.
Interviewer: In the past few years there have been some extraordinary breakthroughs in communication between men and animals. Some outstanding cases being those with dolphins and with owls.
But in the forefront of this field is Professor Timothy Fielding and his experiments with a gorilla called Gerald
Int: Professor, can Gerald really speak as we would understand it?
Professor: Oh, yes, he can speak a few actual words. Of course it was extremely difficult to get him even to this stage. When I first captured Gerald in the Congo, '67 I think it was
Gerald: '68
Prof: '68. There was an awful lot of work to do. He was enormously slow and difficult. I had to do a lot of work with him on a sort of one to one basis ...
Gerald: Yes, if I might just but in at this point Tim, I should point out that I have done a considerable amount of work on this project myself, and if I may say so, your teaching methods leave a bit to be desired
Prof: That's a little ungrateful isn't it
Gerald: And your diction for instance ...
Prof: I'm sorry, can I put this into some sort of perspective, when I caught Gerald in '68 he was completely wild
Gerald: Wild, I was absolutely livid ...
Int: Well, clearly that has all changed now, because of course you've been brought up in the Professor's own house
Prof: Yes, he's living with me, yes
Gerald: Though not in the biblical sense
Int: Yes, I was going to ask you actually, Gerald, do you have a mate?
Gerald: Yeah, I've got lots of mates, there's the Professor, there's his son Toby, there's Raymond next door
Int: Well, no, actually ...
Gerald: Oh, I see, Oh, I see what you mean, ... crumpet!
Prof: You didn't tell me you were friendly with Raymond
Gerald: Do I have to tell you everything?
Int: To come back to my earlier question, how has Gerald reacted to being separated from his family?
Prof: Well to begin with Gerald did make several attempts to contact his old flange of gorillas
Gerald: It's a whoop, Professor, it's a whoop of gorillas, it's a flange of baboons
Prof: He sent them the occasional letter, but I couldn't really see the point, I mean, they either ate them or wiped their bottoms on them, I mean ...
Gerald: Look, I know you've never got on with my mother
Prof: Well, she didn't exactly like me, did she?
Gerald: Well, she got on perfectly well with David Attenborough
Prof: David Attenborough, all I ever hear is David bloody Attenborough
Gerald: Leave Dave out of this shall we?
Prof: Oh, shut up and have a banana
Gerald: Alright, I will
Int: If I could interrupt for a minute, Gerald I believe you've been earning some money doing TV commercials and so on. What do you spend your earnings on?
Gerald: I suppose you'd expect me to say that I spend most of my money on peanuts, bananas and carpet cleaner
Int: No, not at all
Gerald: Well, I do spend about 95 percent of it on those items, but the rest goes on little luxuries, I'm very keen on Johnny Mathis
Prof: Yes, you're not kidding are you? 'Whe a child is born' blaring out till all hours, when I'm downstairs trying to do some work
Gerald: Look the production on that album is amazing
Prof: My serious scientific project and you behave like an absolute child
Gerald: I went to evening classes and ...
Prof: Oh, shut up about your bloody evening classes, Gerald
Gerald: As Aristotle once said
Prof: Oh,
Gerald: Ezoey, enay etc
Prof: You arrogant little bastard, you're wrecking my life's work ... trampling about the garden eating the daffodils
Gerald: I do not eat daffodils
Prof: Well, somebody does, don't they?
Int: Well, perhaps we could leave it there, Gerald, Professor, thank you very much indeed
Daffodils: He actually does eat the daffodils you know

Collective nouns

In the video the Professor refers to a flange of gorillas. Gerald corrects him saying:
It's a whoop, Professor, it's a whoop of gorillas, it's a flange of baboons.
In English we have a lot of different words for groups of animals, depending on the animal. All native speakers will know the four main ones (and so should you) plus maybe a couple of others.

Try and match the group word with the animal

1. A flock ofa)fish
2. A school or shoal ofb)bees
3. A pack ofc)cows, antelope and most other animals
4. A herd ofd)wolves, dogs etc
5. a pride ofe)sheep or birds
6. a swarm off)lions
For some strange reason almost every animal also has its own specific group word.
Many native speakers will know, for example:
  • a gaggle of geese
  • a troop of baboons
Not so many will know:
  • a colony of bats or frogs
  • a team of dolphins
And then there are some really strange ones, for example:
  • a convocation of eagles
  • a coalition of cheetahs
  • a congregation of crocodiles
These group words, called collective nouns, often come up in general knowledge quizzes, and especially in that very British institution - the pub quiz. Many pubs have quizzes once a week where people get together in teams and compete for small prizes, or simply just for the honour of winning.
And who was right, Gerald or the Professor? Well -
  • The group word for gorilla is band or whoop - a band or whoop of gorillas
  • The group word for baboon is flange or troop - a flange or troop of baboons
So first prize goes to Gerald.

Links for collective nouns


(The use of this video and transcript is intended for educational purposes only. No infringement of copyright is intended)

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