I just wrote down an expression that sounded perfectly natural to me (a native English speaker):

The room contained teems of people.

but now I am second-guessing myself and wondering if I am making a malapropism due to the homonym with "teams".

To avoid that, I considered the following sentence:

The kitchen sink contained teems of ants.

That sounds natural to me too, even though "teams of ants" would strike me as odd.

However, when I look up teems in various dictionaries, it is only recorded as a verb, not a noun.

Am I using this term incorrectly when I use it as a noun?

closed as off-topic by Jason Bassford Supports Monica, JJ for Transparency and Monica, J. Taylor, David M, David Oct 30 at 14:36

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    The sink is teeming with ants. The room was teeming with hungry grad students. Yes, you were using it incorrectly. – aparente001 Oct 10 at 5:51
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    @aparente001: This isn't an answer, because I already know those sentences are correct. It doesn't mean mine was incorrect. (Also: Putting pseudo-answers in comments is discouraged on most StackExchanges, but not here apparently. Not sure why.) – Oddthinking Oct 10 at 11:55
  • Here's my take on that -- ELU is a b-i-g site. That puts more pressure on participants here to keep to the rules about closing questions. However, there's a high level of wanting to help people. // I'm a little confused. Was your intent to give the word a new definition that is not in any dictionary? If so, what sort of support were you hoping to get from people here? – aparente001 Oct 10 at 18:15
  • My take (as a mod on a stricter site): pseudo-answers can't be peer-edited, voted down, marked with banners or accepted, and they generally evade the community's quality rules for answers, and yet they appear first above the highest voted answer and the accepted answer, and discourage people from bothering to post real answers. – Oddthinking Oct 10 at 22:56
  • These are the sorts of answers I was expecting: my usage was non-standard and I was making a malapropism [which seems to be the correct answer]; my usage was part of a growing trend which was too recent for dictionaries to catch up; my usage was regional and I am looking in the wrong dictionaries; my usage was common and the dictionary editors have now been notified of their egregious mistakes - they will put a personal acknowledgement to me in the dedication of the next edition. – Oddthinking Oct 10 at 23:01

It's definitely not standard but there's a lot of opportunity for creative collective nouns, some of which are collected here - with another article here, just for fun.

"Teems of" something may not be accepted by everyone, but making this stuff up isn't without precedent.

  • The short answer is, everything can be used as a collective noun. You just might get some raised eyebrows. – Adam Josef K Hamilton Oct 10 at 8:14

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