Dame Juliana Berners, in her Booke of St. Albans, says, in designating companies we must not use the names of multitudes promiscuously, and examples her remark thus:
“ `We say a congregacyon of people, a hoost of men, afelyshyppynge of jomen, and a bevy of ladyes; we must speak of a herde of dere, swannys, cranys, or wrenys, a sege of herons or bytourys, a muster of pecockes, a watche of nyghtyngales, a fllyghte of doves, a claterynge of choughes, a pryde of lyons, a slewthe of beeres, agagle of geys, a skulke of foxes, a sculle of frerys; a pontificalitye of prestys, and a superfluyte of nonnes.' ” —Booke of St. Albans (1486).
She adds, that a strict regard to these niceties better distinguishes “gentylmen from ungentylmen,” than regard to the rules of grammar, or even to the moral law. (See Numbers.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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