Saturday, August 27, 2011

The World of Numbers

Dr Abe V Rotor

We are fond of numbers and we use different terms to denote animals, plants and our own species. These terms given to groups of animals give us distinct and more vivid imagery about their natural gregarious character.

Here are common examples.

• Lions – pride
• Goat – trip
• Cows – flink
• Sheep – flock
• Birds – flock
• Fishes – school
• Ants - colony
• Flies – swarm
• Cattle – herd
• Bacteria – colony
• Geese – gaggle (on the ground); skein (in the air)

Grouping of plants is unique. Botanists and agriculturists use terms like tillers, as in rice;suckers in banana, runners and stolons in gabi and Bermuda grass, slips in pineapple. All these refer to the asexual progeny of a mother plant, duplicating itself many times in its lifetime. These are agronomic terms: a paddy of rice, an orchard, a grove of coconut, a plot or patchof vegetables.

Among us humans we use many terms such as a battery of lawyers, a battalion or platoonof soldiers, class in schools, team in games. a choir, a batch of graduates, or simply throngfor a huge crowd. In an organization we group people into departments, divisions, sections, etc, specifying work and responsibility. Then we have such terms as congregation, fraternity, gang, and the like.

Systematics became a science not only to quantify but organize numbers. In biology, systematics which refers to identification and classification of organisms adopts the terms kingdom, phylaor division, class, order, family, genus and species, among sub-types, including smaller categories as races, varieties, breeds, accessions and cultivars.

Numbers, numbers, numbers - we live by numbers.

x x x

Reference: Living with Folk Wisdom, by AV Rotor, UST Press Manila

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