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I was reading Walter O'Brien's AMA on Reddit and came across this:

oscarveli: How did you choose your hacker name?
O'Brien: It was chosen for me in high school as I was a very docile person until pushed too far and I am very loyal to my circle of friends (a group of scorpions is called a cyclone). So I had the nature of a Scorpion

I looked up 'cyclone' in several online dictionaries, but not once did I come across the definition, "a group of scorpions" (and I even looked it up on Urban Dictionary!).

However, according to Answers.com and a few other sources, 'cyclone' is correct. Could anyone enlighten me on the proper collective noun for scorpions?

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    You have to admit it does sound like an excellent sequel to Sharknado – mccannf Oct 2 '14 at 22:43
  • @mccannf True. But for now, I'm more interested in what the next episode of Scorpion is about. Especially since it's titled "A Cyclone" :) – Vinayak Oct 2 '14 at 23:00
  • A group of scorpions would certainly put the wind up most people. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 2 '14 at 23:00
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    No, I mean a group of scorpions. Some collective nouns are more specific than others (skein of geese if flying; gaggle if chasing you // 'stable' of horses v 'string' v 'team' v 'herd') and a 'colony' would refer to a co-residential group. One can use general collectives (like 'group' or 'collection' itself) much more generally. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 2 '14 at 23:14
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    It's called "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH RUNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" – languageaddict Oct 3 '14 at 0:00
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It is called a bed or a nest.

Source: http://www.thealmightyguru.com/Pointless/AnimalGroups.html

Bed and nest are mentioned as a collective noun for scorpions in various sources also.

I did a search on Google Ngram for "nest of scorpions", "bed of scorpions","colony of scorpions" and "group of scorpions". Ngram couldn't find "colony of scorpions" and "group of scorpions". Below is a screenshot:

enter image description here

Google Ngram result for "a nest of scorpions":

enter image description here

Though, nest can be used in the sense below also:

(Zoology) a number of animals of the same species and their young occupying a common habitat: an ants' nest.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/nest

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    Your last sentence doesn’t make sense to me. – Tyler James Young Oct 2 '14 at 21:20
  • This is the first time I've heard about Google Ngram Viewer. Your updated answer provides compelling evidence so I'll mark it as the accepted solution. I did an Ngram search for "scorpion nest, bed of scorpions, nest of scorpions, scorpion bed, colony of scorpions, scorpion colony, group of scorpions, scorpion group, cyclone of scorpions, scorpion cyclone" and this graph was the result. "nest of scorpions" is the clear winner here. – Vinayak Oct 3 '14 at 0:26
  • @Vinayak: I'm glad you learned about such a useful tool. – ermanen Oct 3 '14 at 0:30
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    Surely a nest is only applicable when they're in a place (their home, under a rock or what ever), and not when they're on the move (a marauding cyclone of scorpions.. heh). – naught101 Oct 3 '14 at 0:43
  • @naught101 Certainly. And as for a nest of hippopotami ... – Edwin Ashworth Oct 3 '14 at 8:07
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In general, most animals do not have a "proper" collective noun. Collective nouns as we know them were intended as a way for gentlemen to demonstrate their knowledge and also have a bit of fun. They were not meant for everyday use. In scientific literature, you will not usually find serious reference to these collective nouns.

The English language tradition of collective nouns can be traced back to the Book of Saint Albans.

The book contains, appended, a large list of special collective nouns for animals, "Company terms", such as "gaggle of geese" and the like, as in the article List of collective nouns. Amongst these are numerous humorous collective nouns for different professions, such as a "diligence of messengers", a "melody of harpers", a "blast of hunters", "a subtlety of sergeants", and a "superfluity of nuns". The tradition of a large number of such collective nouns which has survived into modern Standard English ultimately goes back to this book, via the popular 1595 edition by Gervase Markham in his The Gentleman's Academic.

Modern collective nouns follow the same whimsical and descriptive ideals.

Wikipedia is linked because this article and the related articles are well sourced. The relevant sources are books, not web documents, so I cannot link to them.

  • Kate Burridge, in her book Blooming English, adds: "There are manuscripts surviving from the 1400s containing long lists of these collective expressions, many of which made it into ordinary language and are still around today". So, by this point we must have an "insert collective noun here" of words for a collection of scorpions. – tylerharms Oct 10 '14 at 8:54
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I think someone misread cyclone for colony of scorpions at some point, and it propagated from there.

  • I think you're correct. I just found many references to 'a colony of scorpions' in Google. This link pretty much confirms it: Scorpions: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual – Vinayak Oct 2 '14 at 21:56
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    So an assumption is an answer instead of a fact? Colony is not a collective noun for scorpions. It is usually used in a biological sense and you can use colony for all organisms: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_%28biology%29 . Though it can be used as a collective noun for some animals: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/… – ermanen Oct 2 '14 at 23:21
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    There are a few so-called collective nouns in current use. There are some which were current in previous centuries. There are many which exist nowhere but in reference books and on-line inquiry forums. – Colin Fine Oct 2 '14 at 23:23
  • Shouldn't that be called "Scorpions: A Completely Insane Pet Owner's Manual"? Who would keep scorpions as pets? – David Conrad Oct 3 '14 at 16:34
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To expand on @ermanen's answer, you can search for a phrase on Google ngrams with wildcards: a * of scorpions.

The most common result is actually a "whip", but that's referring to a torture device, not a collective noun.

But "scourge" rates pretty highly too. It seems to be mostly used in the context of driving churches out of the land, which is fairly amusing. I think that certainly could be used as a collective noun, although I don't know if it ever is, outside of that specific context.

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    A fascinating method of finding candidates for collective nouns, but (as you illustrate) fraught with ways it can give false results! * in "a * of things" doesn't have to be a collective noun. (try "cans"!) – GreenAsJade Oct 3 '14 at 6:04
  • @GreenAsJade: Sure, that's why I didn't suggest that "whip" was a collective noun. You can click the phrase in the table down the bottom to get a Google Books search, and that allows you to check how the phrase is used. – naught101 Oct 3 '14 at 6:11
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    Yep, I know you know :) I was just acknowledging the cool technique (thanks!) and some of its wierdness! – GreenAsJade Oct 3 '14 at 6:14
  • Well, a "fricassee of scorpions" is an idea that spoiled my appetite. But what a neat trick. – Casey Oct 3 '14 at 17:42

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