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The Word Parliament

Yes, I am probably just being silly.

Among the myriad of definitions and uses for the word, ‘Parliament’ in the English language is how it is used in reference to birds. For some strange reason, us English speakers like to come up with silly ways to describe groups of birds. For example:

A murder of crows, a flight of pigeons, a company of parrots, a cast of falcons...

…And so on. In the case of owls, the word used is Parliament.

This is no mere coincidence. We are surrounded by a parliament of owls here on Duolingo. These owls visit our lessons wearing costumes; they comment on the discussions and they also build the machine. And since this linguistic microcosm receives governance through these owls it seems only natural that they be addressed appropriately as a parliament.

Thus Luis would not be CEO- he would be Prime Minister of the Parliament of Duolingo...

…And so on.


July 25, 2013



While owl is a germanic word, parliament is from old french (you can see the link to parler) and was introduced into english after the Norman invasion. The collective term must date to after 1066 and I would guess is probably much more recent - perhaps the last two hundred years.

The Germans, by the way, call a group of owls an eulenschwarm.

Those of us who have read the Narnia books will remember that Eustace and Jill attend a parliament of talking owls in The Silver Chair.


Eustace... Oh, the dragon skins!!!

1066 is still fightin' words for some folk- there are those who still prefer to call him, 'William the Bastard'. For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien was of that camp and I certainly sympathize with his perspective.

Personally, I think puns are the final reward/curse of such a popular movement as this.



I like the German variant. Everything should come in swarms. A swarm of owls, a swarm of apples, a swarm of friends, a swarm of swarms. Swarmy.


Apples can't come in swarms, though. :)


Wouldn't a study of owls be more appropriate? (Yes I googled, who remembers these stuff?)


"Yes, I am probably just being silly."



I like your thinking! I prefer to think of the collectives as eccentric rather than silly. It would be really interesting to know where they come from.

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