This domain is used for email serving, and internal projects. However, the following is included for those who wish to know what a "fesnyng" is...

Date: 15 May 1994 18:04:00 GMT
Subject: Sesquipedalephilia
Newsgroups: alt.usage.english

Ben Walsh ( wrote:

: This question has bothered me on a kind of conceptual, rather than a
: linguistic, level.

: The word "fesnyng" is the collective noun given to ferrets.  A fesnyng
: of ferrets is one of those idiomatic and endearing terms now facing
: extinction.  When was the last time anyone said "a murder of crows" and
: not "a flock"? A "charm of nightingales"? A "watch" of whatever it is
: that comes in watches?

: So, there is the rough Saxon term "fesnyng", heavy with both
: alliteration and assonance: "a fesnyng of ferrets". Lovely.

: Here, though, is the problem.  Ferrets are fiercely solitary animals.
: They are no more likely to get together in a fesnyng than you or I are.
: So how, or why, does this word exist?  How can you label something which
: does not ever happen.

: The argument: make your own fesnyng.  Put a group of ferrets together (I
: believe that a bathtub is usually used for this purpose), and one might
: claim to be entitled to say "there's a fesnyng in my bath".  However, I
: disagree.  You do not have a fesnyng any more than several lions from
: different prides constitute one pride when put together.

: Any thoughts??

     I have something much better than mere thoughts.  Last night, in 
the spirit of scientific research, I invited several people over for a
few beers. In my bathtub upstairs I installed 12 ferrets. Then, 
whenever anyone returned from using the bathroom I asked them, "Did you
notice anything unusual in the bathroom?"  Not a single individual 
said he noticed anything unusual, but when I pressed further two or 
three of them did say, "Well, there *was* a fesnyng in your 
     Now I completely agree with your contention that just gathering 
together a few lions from different prides would not constitute a new 
pride anymore than gathering together a random bunch of people would 
result in a family, but what the above ferret experiment seems to show
is that, since ferrets do not *naturally* form fesnyngs, the fact that
I formed one unnaturally--so to speak--in my bathtub does not make it 
any less a fesnyng, since there is no more genuine fesnyng to compare 
it to.
     In a further spirit of scientific research I plan to put 8 or 10 
unrelated people of various genders in my bathtub and see if that 
results in a family.... 
     I hope this clears up the mystery.

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