I wish the US administration would stop doing unconscionable and reprehensible things, but, as with Rob Ford, it seems that with every new outrage I have another word to talk about.
With the banning of some of the most-respected American news outlets from a recent briefing, I became aware of the word "gaggle" used to mean a kind of informal press conference where reporters can ask questions but not make video recordings.
Like the very similar "cackle" applied to hens, "gaggle" started life in the 1300s as a verb, designating the sound made by geese, and almost certainly originating in an imitation of that sound.
About 100 years later, it started to be used as a noun to mean a "flock of geese". This was one of those fanciful collective nouns for animals that were made up at the time (a parliament of owls, a murmuration of starlings..) and which for the most part have never caught on in general parlance.
But "gaggle" was a hit. In the mid-20th century it started to be used for disorderly groups of people, especially if they made a lot of noise. This was particularly appropriate for groups of reporters all asking questions at once:
|Title||Is Nothing Private?|
|JOHN F. STACKS|
When it was reported that Senate minority Leader Tom Daschle told a gaggle of Washington reporters he thought George W. Bush had the right to refuse to answer questions about his long-past personal behavior
By 2004, we see it being applied specifically to the mini press conference:
|Title||Bush's Iraq: A Powerful Fantasy|
FLYING TO MINNESOTA ON AIR FORCE ONE LAST WEEK, WHITE House press secretary Scott McClellan held a " gaggle " -- that is, a mini-press conference -- with reporters in the back of the plane.The analogous word in Canadian English is "scrum", taken from rugby. "Scrum" is a shortening of "scrummage", a variant of "scrimmage", which is ultimately related to "skirmish".
For why the plural of "goose" is "geese", click here.
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