From Sat Jul 27 18:49:50 1996

Per 'fesnyng', consider the following usenet post:


Newsgroups: alt.usage.english
Subject: Re: Sesquipedalephilia

Ben Walsh ( wrote:

> This question has bothered me on a kind of conceptual, rather than
> a linguistic, level.
> The word "fesnyng" is the collective noun given to ferrets. A fesnyng
> of ferrets is one of those idiomatic and endearing terms now facing
> extinction. When was the last time anyone said "a murder of crows" and
> not "a flock"? A "charm of nightingales"? A "watch" of whatever it is
> that comes in watches?
> So, there is the rough Saxon term "fesnyng", heavy with both
> alliteration and assonance: "a fesnyng of ferrets". Lovely.
> Here, though, is the problem. Ferrets are fiercely solitary animals.
> They are no more likely to get together in a fesnyng than you or I are.
> So how, or why, does this word exist? How can you label something which
> does not ever happen?
> The argument: make your own fesnyng. Put a group of ferrets together (I
> believe that a bathtub is usually used for this purpose), and one might
> claim to be entitled to say "there's a fesnyng in my bath". However, I
> disagree. You do not have a fesnyng any more than several lions from
> different prides constitute one pride when put together.
> Any thoughts??

I have something much better than mere thoughts. Last night, in
the spirit of scientific research, I invited several people over for a
few beers. In my bathtub upstairs I installed 12 ferrets. Then,
whenever anyone returned from using the bathroom I asked them, "Did you
notice anything unusual in the bathroom?" Not a single individual
said he noticed anything unusual, but when I pressed further two or
three of them did say, "Well, there *was* a fesnyng in your
Now I completely agree with your contention that just gathering
together a few lions from different prides would not constitute a new
pride anymore than gathering together a random bunch of people would
result in a family, but what the above ferret experiment seems to show
is that, since ferrets do not *naturally* form fesnyngs, the fact that
I formed one unnaturally--so to speak--in my bathtub does not make it
any less a fesnyng, since there is no more genuine fesnyng to compare
it to.
In a further spirit of scientific research I plan to put 8 or 10
unrelated people of various genders in my bathtub and see if that
results in a family....
I hope this clears up the mystery.


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