Isn't English an odd language? I find it fascinating, of course, but (as my children assure me) I'm weird. For a non-native speaker, getting to grips with collective nouns is a nightmare. And what is the collective term for collective nouns anyway? Who knows why owls form a parliament, larks an exultation and sheep a flock? Why are geese a gaggle when they're walking and a flock when they're flying... and what are they called as they take off and some of them are airborne and others not?
My husband has been speaking English for so long that it has replaced his native Swedish as his first language. For the pedantic listener, though, there are clues that at least part of his English fluency was gained from non-native speaking parents.
One of those is that he refers to anaesthetic as if the 'th' were simply a 't'. His parents struggled to master the 'th' sound, and putting it straight after an 's' in the middle of a word like that was just plain rude! Mind you, they have no room to talk, the Swedes have an 'sj' combination that is likely to put your tongue into spasm!
The other is collective nouns. While he could probably do fairly well on a written test in which he had time to think of the correct collective nouns, conversational ebb and flow is another matter altogether. At some point he just gave up and started using 'herd' as his collective panacea. Thus:
- as we drive along a country road, we might encounter a herd of sheep
- when he is struggling against the flow of pedestrian traffic, he is barged by a herd of people
- when we go on holiday, his sweet blood ensures that he attacked by a herd of mosquitoes
- when the wheels fall off, he is faced with a herd of problems
See? It can be done. And, just in case you are one of the few people on the planet who hasn't seen the ad, yet, just because it's Friday: