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I am interested in British English collective nouns for tiger. The wikipedia offers "streak" and "ambush". However, when I search google ngrams I get nothing at all for "streak of tigers" or "ambush of tigers".

Are these collective nouns actually in use and if so, when did they start being being used and are there any respectable examples of their use in printed material? Alternatively are there more common terms?

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  • Why the downvote?
    – Simd
    Feb 8, 2015 at 18:40
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    Since tigers live alone, do we need a collective noun for them? Feb 8, 2015 at 18:47
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    Simply google streak of tigers and find the usage. Tigers are solitary creatures (see lairweb.org.nz/tiger/streaking.html), so apart from captivity there is very little cause to refer to a streak of tigers.
    – ScotM
    Feb 8, 2015 at 18:50
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    You could also try a serenade of tigers. Two books, 120 years apart, use the phrase. google.com/…. Venery is open to new terms. Collective nouns for tigers, I'd say, aren't well known.
    – Frank
    Feb 8, 2015 at 19:07
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    1964 is the earliest date I can find for ambush of tigers at books.google.com/… , which doesn't put in it in the 'Book of St Albans' venery dept. There is a 1950 reference but it's about Tiger tanks. Streak of tigers 1997 (yesterday in venerial terms) books.google.com/…
    – Frank
    Feb 8, 2015 at 19:24

1 Answer 1

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They are terms of venery, which means that they are quite likely to have been made up just to be a bit funny and act as linguistic curios. Some terms of venery have a long-standing tradition and are actually in use in English (like a pride of lions or a school of fish), but many others, going all the way back to the 15th century and the Book of St. Albans, were/are clearly just made up to be amusing and set you off as someone who knows an awful lot about which specific collective noun to use for which specific animal.

Using a streak/ambush of tigers in an actual, normal English context would most likely just get you odd looks or blank stares. A few here and there may realise that you’re talking terms of venery, and they may even think that you just made it up yourself to be funny; but I would wager very, very few people would recognise them as ‘accepted’ collective nouns.

If you’re looking for a term that just makes your intention clear without sounding strange or abstruse, just use a generic collective noun, like a group of tigers. This is quite commonly used—it gives about 93,000 Google hits. Streak and ambush both give less than 5,000 hits, and most of the first ones are pages listing terms of venery.

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    I looked up venery in the OED. It gives me two options. These are "The practice or sport of hunting beasts of game; the chase" and "The practice or pursuit of sexual pleasure; indulgence of sexual desire." . Is "terms of venery" a well known idiom ?
    – Simd
    Feb 8, 2015 at 18:55
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    Yes, fairly well-known. It refers to hunting here, obviously: terms of venery are collective nouns that refer specifically to animals as they are seen from the hunter’s perspective. It is part of the title of the Wikipedia article you linked to in your question, so I assumed you were familiar with the term already. There’s a slightly more detailed description of them here, and there are several questions about them here on ELU as well. Feb 8, 2015 at 18:58
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    At least many of them should not be considered normal collocations in actual use in English. They are just curios that you can use if you want to sound humoristic or deliberately esoteric. The difficult thing is telling the difference between these and the ones who are actually commonly used. Referring to a school of fish or a pod of whales, for example, is perfectly normal and colloquial English, no stranger than talking about a herd of sheep. Feb 8, 2015 at 20:23
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    Isn't it a flock of sheep?
    – Random832
    Feb 9, 2015 at 4:07
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    I have only ever head a "flock of sheep" in my life. It is funny that you herd them though, I will grant you. A quick ngrams search confirms this although it does seem "herd of sheep" is becoming slightly more popular. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Simd
    Feb 10, 2015 at 22:32

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