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In Season 4, episode 7, as the ladies of Downton watch Tony Gillingham, Evelyn Napier and Charles Blake depart together,

Lady Cora: "I'm sorry to see them go."

Rose: "Not as sorry as Mary. What's a group noun for suitors?"

Cora: "What do you think? A desire?"

Rosamund: "A desire of suitors. Very good."



While the phrase "venereal terms" might conjure unsavory images of STD break-out cycles, it is—quite mercifully—unrelated. Derived not from the Roman goddess of love (Venus, Vener-) but through Old French venerie from Latin venāri "to hunt," terms of venery or "nouns of assembly" became a fashion in Late Medieval England and France for consciously innovating words to describe collective groups of game animals. The tradition was so popular it quickly became a kind of word game, both a way to demonstrate individual wit in coining new terms and a shibboleth for aristocratic hunters. In a 1486 print book on hawking, hunting and heraldry, commonly called The Book of St. Albans, 165 terms are listed, many of which are no longer hunting terms but instead humorous designations for groups of professionals ("a Sentence of Juges," for example). The practice was nearly ubiquitous in hunting manuals and courtesy books.

Some of the more memorable examples include: a cete of badgers, a dissimulation of birds, a sleuth of bears, an unkindness of ravens, and a hastiness of cooks (from Caxton's Courtesy Book, 1491).



The Game: In the manner of Cousin Rose and Lady Cora's gentle, clever teasing of Mary's growing number of suitors, coin collective nouns for other Downton Abbey groups.

A Contention of Valets




A Prohibition of Americans




An Infamy of Jazz Musicians




A Secret of Trains to London




A Felony of Monarchists




A Heartbreak of Kitchen Maids




A Briar of the Dowager Countess of Grantham's Verbal Barbs





So which ones do you think work? Please suggest alternatives or others in the comments.
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