A Whisper of Silent Film Fans: In which I try to find a new collective noun

Collective nouns are fun. We all love to hear about a murder of crows, a glaring of cats, etc. A few of these have made it into our everyday language (a flock of sheep, a pride of lions) while a romp of otters has never quite caught on.

The origins of these colorful turns of phrase are obscure but some were possibly the invention of (or at least collected by) Juliana Berners, a prioress in fifteenth century England. It is amusing to think of Juliana staying up nights and giggling at collectives like a melody of harpers and, significantly, a superfluity of nuns.

Well, I think it’s high time that silent film fans were granted their very own collective noun. So, I did exactly what Juliana Berners would have done: I asked Twitter.

So there you have it! “A whisper of silent film fans gathered for the screening.” Please spread the word of our wonderful new collective term.

Incidentally, if you want to know more about collective nouns, there’s a whole book on the subject. Enjoy!

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10 Replies to “A Whisper of Silent Film Fans: In which I try to find a new collective noun”

  1. Hmmm…I hope that’s not the people in the audience (and I’m sure it happened) who read out the intertitles, and not always in a whisper.

    Of course I voted ’emulsion’ for the fans attached to silent films.

    But I really like Kerr’s ‘crank.’ I’m not sure about American English usage, but here’s a range from a British English Thesaurus (ex Mac Dictionary)

    ===================================================

    crank 2
    noun
    I was treated like a crank by the so-called experts: eccentric, oddity, odd fellow, unorthodox person, individualist, nonconformist, free spirit, bohemian, maverick, deviant, pervert, misfit, hippy, dropout; madman/madwoman, lunatic, psychotic; fanatic, fan, zealot, addict, enthusiast, devotee, aficionado; informal oddball, odd/queer fish, freak, character, weirdie, weirdo, crackpot, loony, nut, nutter, nutcase, head case, sicko, perv, fiend, maniac, buff, -head, a great one for; Brit. informal one-off, odd bod; Scottish informal radge; N. Amer. informal wacko, wack, screwball, kook, geek, jock; Austral./NZ informal dingbat; informal, dated case.

  2. Not that anyone asked me, but I don’t think “whisper” would be the proper term. It automatically evokes images of a stern librarian uttering “Ssssh!” Bosley Crowther once described a Laurel & Hardy comedy he disliked as “no more than a whisper in the realm of comedy.”

    How about “a King Vidor crowd”?

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