It was the hippos that started it.
‘I don’t see why we should be known as a crash and you get away with being a charm,’ complained Grand Lady Hippo as she adjusted her tail before daintily seating herself. ‘I for one have never been part of a crash of hippos and I never shall be.’
The hummingbirds to whom she was directing her comments settled menacingly upon the branch above her head. Their leader snarled at her. ‘Don’t get ideas, lady. There’s nothin’ charmin’ about us. We’re hard, we’re nasty. We mean business. We want to be in a murder, like the crows.’
‘Well, be my guest,’ replied the crow loftily, looking up from his newspaper. ‘I think I speak for my fellow crows when I say that the collective term ‘murder’ has never appealed and we would be more than happy to exchange. For example, we all feel that a culture of bacteria is completely wasted on them. I’ve never seen one read a book in its life! Whereas I have several degrees and my wife is a master of philosophy.’
‘Yeah! Yeah!’ twittered the hummingbirds (‘What’s a bacterial?’ asked one. ‘Never you mind,’ growled the leader through gritted beak, ‘you just get on with robbing that nest.’) ‘That settles it then, us lot will be a Murder of Hummingbirds, and you lot,’ he waved a wing at Grand Lady Hippopotamus, ‘can be a Charm of Hippos and you high and mighty crows can be a Culture. And them bacterials can be whatever they want.’
‘Ooh!’ cried a passing llama. ‘In that case, darlings, I don’t want to be a herd. Everyone’s a herd, its so passé. I want to be something daring, like a whoop.’
‘You can’t be a whoop,’ muttered a baboon. ‘We’re a whoop, and if you become a whoop then everyone else will want to and then you might as well have stuck to being in a herd.’
‘Oh,’ said the llama, dejected. ‘How about a congress?’
‘Nope,’ replied the baboon grinning. ‘We’re a congress, too. We have two words, you see. You’ll just have to stick to herd…Oh! What are you doing?’
The murder of hummingbirds had swooped on the baboon whose grin was fading fast. The leader sat on his nose.
‘If the lady wants to be in a whoop, sonny Jim, I suggest you let her. All right?’
‘All right,’ mumbled the baboon and shuffled away.
‘Lovely job, come on lads – let’s MAKE SOME NOISE!’ And off flew the hummingbirds, leaving all the animals happy with their new groups. Except the baboon, who wished he’d handled things differently.