Trump Administration Bars Reporters from Press Gaggle

'A group, aggregation, or cluster lacking organization'

Lookups for gaggle spiked on February 24, 2017, when the Trump administration banned reporters from CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Politico from a regular press briefing at the White House. Time magazine and the AP boycotted the briefing, known as a gaggle, which is a more informal gathering than a press conference, in which reporters are allowed to ask questions on the record but not to make video recordings.

Derived from a Middle English word that meant “to cackle” (like geese), gaggle originally meant “flock” and especially “a flock of geese.” It came to mean “a group, aggregation, or cluster lacking organization” in the mid-20th century; “a gaggle of reporters” led to the use of the term as a specific name for this type of White House briefing, as used by Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, in a statement:

The W.H.C.A. board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House.

Gaggle began to be used in the late 15th century, and is one of a large number of collective nouns that the English language gave birth to at that time. Most of these (such as a superfluity of nuns, and a singular of bores) have long ago fallen into a state of disuse. Many of these terms were first recorded in books devoted to falconry and hunting, and those that survive (pride of lions, school of fish) tend to be concerned with the animal kingdom.

Gaggle often is used, when applied to a bunch of geese, to refer to birds that are on the water. For those who are interested in a degree of specificity that will likely never be needed, a bunch of geese (or any wildfowl) in flight are described collectively as a skein.

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