Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Giggle of Girls

My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 30, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

Happy chatter and laughter filled the air as the car traveled along the highway from Mountain Pine to Hot Springs. Excited voices competed to be heard over each other, ending in a crescendo of boisterous giggles. Finally, the decibel level of the chatter settled down to a level lower than a jet plane taking off, but the giggles continued. The Hyundai Sonata making its way down the mountain was filled with girls. My granddaughter had spent two weeks at Summer Camp on the shores of Lake Ouachita, and my wife had just picked her up. Two more granddaughters and their cousin were along for the ride – and the promise of a shopping trip. After two weeks of being apart, the girls were happy to be back together. There were so many stories to tell, so much catching up to do, and so much giggling.

After spending the afternoon shopping in Hot Springs and eating at La Hacienda, they headed home. The girls were still excited and exuberant, and they filled the car with laughter. Sometimes they would simply look at each other and burst into spontaneous giggles. Finally, when my wife got home, she told me, “You may have heard of a murder of crows or a congress of baboons, but this is a giggle of girls. I immediately loved the phrase and started referring to them as a giggle of girls. 

We spent the weekend with family members from Texas, Louisiana, and Missouri. Seven girls, ages eight to fifteen, spent the afternoon together, eating, swimming, playing, talking, and giggling. It indeed was a giggle of girls.

I have often wondered why we have such unusual names for groups of things. We frequently use terms that seem natural, like a flock of chickens, a school of fish, a pride of lions, or a herd of cows. But there are hundreds of obscure names that we never use in everyday conversation. Names such as a parliament of owls, a rhumba of rattlesnakes, a surfeit of skunks, or a charm of hummingbirds. Why does English have these unusual naming conventions? How did we get these names?

My first thought was that there must be a scientific basis, or at least the names were given by people studying sciences like biology and zoology. But when I researched the names, I found that they are essentially linguistic leftovers from the Middle Ages. These terms of venery, or nouns of the collection as they are also known, were first introduced by 15th-century English gentlemen. When these noblemen went hunting, they would devise names for animal groups based on their poetic interpretation of nature. Some of these terms were clever, a charm of hummingbirds, some were obvious, a paddling of ducks, and others were just pretentious, an ostentation of peacocks.

Names for groups of animals were first recorded in books for nobility. These books instructed men on the various aspects of noble life, especially hunting. These books were designed as manuals for young aristocrats, advising them on social graces and activities. A young nobleman needed to know the proper way to refer to groups of animals so that he wouldn’t be embarrassed while he was hunting with others. The Book of Saint Albans, published in 1486, is credited with the first appearance of terms of venery. I am pretty sure that the term “giggle of girls” was not included.

From the time that my granddaughters were born, they loved to giggle. I fell in love with those giggles, and so would you if you heard them. When we giggle together, it is part of the loving bonds we make with each other. We only giggle and laugh with people when we are comfortable. There may be nervous laughter between people who are at odds with each other. But giggling shows that you are very comfortable and at ease. Giggling is an expression of pure joy.

God wants us to experience joy. In Galatians 5:22, Paul tells us that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. I love the way that King David expressed himself in Psalms 16:11 (NET). “You lead me in the path of life. I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight.” David’s expression of sheer delight in living in the presence of God makes me smile. I can almost hear a giggle on David’s lips. 

Do you remember Eeyore and Tigger in the Winnie-the Pooh books and movies? For Eeyore, no matter what exceptional circumstance came his way, doom and gloom remained the focus. While Tigger, bouncing through life without a care in the world, never perceived anything to go wrong. In our daily lives, it is easy to have the attitude of Eeyore. But Biblical joy is not simply overcoming our inner Eeyore, nor is it bouncing through life in ignorant bliss. We can find joy in facing each day’s ups and downs, knowing that Jesus is on our side. “Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times.” Roman 12:12 (ICB)

When Jesus was talking to his disciples shortly before his death, He said, “I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have. I want your joy to be the fullest joy.” John 15:11 (ICB) Jesus says the same thing to you and me. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to experience joy in our lives. In his final conversation with his disciples, Jesus told them, “You are sad now. I will see you again and then your hearts will be full of joy. No one can take your joy from you.” John 16:22 (NLV) 

Gentle Reader, God wants his children to experience joy and happiness. Just like a father wants his child to giggle, God longs for us to experience a deep-seated, profoundly rooted joy. Joy is not just a nice add-on to the Christian life. It is not the bow on top of the package; it is the package. “God will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21 (NCV) Take time today to laugh, giggle, and experience the joy and delight of believing in God.

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