Collective Nouns for Animals

I received this in my e-mail recently, and I thought I’d share it with all of you.

The English language has some wonderfully anthropomorphic collective nouns for the various groups of animals. We are all familiar with a herd of cows, a flock of chickens, a school of fish and a gaggle of geese.

However, less widely known is a pride of lions, a murder of crows (as well as their cousins the rooks and ravens), an exaltation of doves and, presumably because they look so wise, a parliament of owls.

Now consider a group of Baboons. They are the loudest, most dangerous, most obnoxious, most viciously aggressive and least intelligent of all primates.

And what is the proper collective noun for a group of baboons?????

Believe it or not ……. a congress of baboons, and that explains the chaos that we have in the House of Representatives. 🙂


“patient” vs. “patience”

I was in the elevator this morning when I heard someone say this, pertaining to the slowness of the elevator:

  • You must have patient.” (X)

Well, the thing is, he was not in the hospital when he said that. He was merely telling his friend to “be calm and wait”.

  • patient (n.) – a person who is receiving medical care in a hospital or clinic
  • patient (adj.) – be calm and without complaining
  • patience (n.)  – the quality of being patient

Since the above speech refers to a person’s “quality” because of the word “have”, a noun must be used instead.

  • You must have patience.” (√)

Compare with this:

  • You must be patient.” (√)

In general, you could say that a noun is used after “has/have”:


  • … has intelligence
  • … has beauty


Intonation in Speech

Has anyone reprimanded you for speaking like a robot? If they did, then it means your voice is flat without any ups and downs as you speak. In other words, there’s no intonation in your speech. Intonation is a crucial part of communication, regardless of any language that you speak in. Watch this video and learn the importance of intonation.

Crazy English

This is what people call “Crazy English”. The irony is that despite being a crazy language, English is interesting, and has been the subject in many researches. Here are examples of homographs, but not necessarily homophones:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to dessert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8 ) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

If you have any other examples, please share with the rest of us. :)


"stationary" vs. "stationery"

There’s no spelling error here. Although both words are pronounced the same way,  “stationary” and “stationery” do not have the same meaning. Yet, you sometimes see mistakes.

  • stationary (adj.) – not moving
  • stationery* (n.) – writing materials like pen, pencil, eraser, exercise book etc.

Therefore, it is incorrect to say:

  • I want to go to the bookstore to get some stationary. (X)
  • Vehicles were stationery for hours on the highway. (X)

Stationery” does not have a plural form, so you cannot add an “-s“. So, it is wrong to say:

  • I’m buying some stationeries. (X)
  • I’m buying some stationery. (√)

"pick" vs. "pluck"

Do you plant fruit trees at home? Well, not that it matters in this post. When the fruits are about to ripen, Malaysians would almost always say: “We’re able to pluck the mangoes in a few days.” That’s incorrect.

That’s right. The word that we have been using so often have been wrongly used. It should be: “We’re able to pick the mangoes in a few days.”

What’s the difference then? Both mean “to remove”; however, they’re used in different contexts. There are other meanings as well, but we’ll focus on only one in this post:

  • pluck (v.)* – to pull something with a sudden movement in order to remove it
  • pick (v.) – to remove or separate something small with your fingers

Here are some other examples:

  1. We’re going to the orchard to pick apples.
  2. Don’t pick your nose; it’s impolite.
  3. You cannot use tweezers to pluck feathers.
  4. Thomas plucks his eyebrows to make him look better.

For teeth, the correct word to use is “extract (pull)”. So, please don’t tell your dentist not to pluck your teeth.

Follow Me

We sometimes need to get a ride from a friend to get to work or to do some shopping. A very common way of saying it is: “I’ll follow you to the mall.” – though many of us understand this statement perfectly, it is incorrect.

  • follow me – you’re behind me; I’m in front
  • come with me – you and I go (somewhere) together

In terms of distance, “follow me” is much further. You could be miles apart, yet you’re still following. Do you remember DIGI’s advertisement jingle? It says “I will follow you” – this is correct. It will “cling” to you no matter how far apart you are.

When you use “come with me”, the distance between you and your friend is just a few inches or feet (but not miles). Therefore, if you want to hop into your friend’s car, you say “I’ll come with you.”

See the difference here:

  • You’ll come with you in my car.
  • You’ll follow me in your car.

So when you say “I’ll follow you“, it merely means you’re driving your own car and you’ll be trailing your friend.

“I’ll follow you since you’ll be driving alone.” – means that there are two cars, and you’ll be driving behind the first car. It doesn’t mean you’re the passenger. 🙂


"bienniel" vs. "biannual"

Here is another pair of words that looks the same but each has its own meaning. 😛

  • bienniel – once every two years
  • biannual – twice a year

If you want to say that your organisation conducts financial reports twice a year, then you’ll say: “…biannual financial report

On the other hand, if you report only once every two years, then you say: “… bienniel financial report” – err, is there anything to hide? 🙂 Why not report annually?


“We can’t afford to have a biannual event, so let’s just have a bienniel one.”

About MUET

TOEFL and IELTS are internationally known university entrance assessments that gauge the proficiency level of potential students who are about to enrol into universities. In Malaysia, we have our own assessment specially catered to local students who wish to enter public universities. It’s called the Malaysian University Entrance Test (MUET).

Candidates will be tested on the following components:













30 mins.








30 mins.








90 mins.








90 mins.




This biannual assessment is administered by the Malaysian Examination Council (Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia – MPM). MUET is usually conducted in June and November.

Fees: RM60 per candidate; additional RM25 if you want to change the test centre.

Forms can be obtained either from the State Education Departments or the school authorities.

If you need some help in MUET, especially if live in Malacca :), please don’t hesitate to contact me here. You may check out my brief profile here (scroll down the page).

Compulsory Invitation

My previous post on voluntary donation reminds me of another quite similar incident. Often I get mails to invite staff members to attend some kind of function. The catch is, the e-mails sometimes end with this phrase: “Attendance is compulsory.”

Look, first and foremost, it is an invitation, which means no one is obligated to attend if they don’t want to. Therefore, why the compulsion? If it is mandatory for every one to attend a function, just leave out the word “invite“.

Would you want to go to a wedding if the card reads:

You’re cordially invited to attend a wedding reception…. Your attendance is compulsory.” 😛