Collocation of words: the collection

I talked about collocations of words in this post, giving a few examples:

Collocation of words

Here, I’d like to collect more examples of collocations that I find out in the wild, testing them with Google Ngrams. I didn’t mention it in the aforementioned post, but one of the terms/words is generally found more commonly with a certain other term/word than the other way round. An example is angry mob, discussed below.

Angry mob

For example, if you look at the Google Ngram for *_ADJ mob, you find that mobs are more likely to be angry than anything else nowadays:

*_ADJ mob

Angry mob stands head and shoulders above other types of mobs. Conversely, many things can be described as angry, with no one description standing out:

angry *_NOUN

Grassy knoll

Wordle, first released in October 2021 [1], is a word game where players have six attempts to guess a five-letter word; the word is changed every day. Some of these words have caused controversy between speakers of the different varieties of English. For example, the use of American English (AmE) spellings such as favor upset [1] many British English (BrE) speakers [1,2] and players from the British Commonwealth [1]; similarly, AmE speakers were outraged [3] by the BrE and Australian English word bloke.

Regional differences aside, some words just aren’t common enough for many players to be familiar with; one such word is knoll [4]. Those who did know what it meant gave the example on Twitter of a grassy knoll to show how they knew the word [5]. This is the only type of knoll I remember coming across, which leads me to wonder what other kinds of knolls there are.

*_ADJ knoll

It seems knolls are usually grassy nowadays, but that hasn’t always been the case. From the mid-1810s, knolls were either little or green, until around 1850, when little knolls dominated. It wasn’t until about 1930 that grassy knolls took off. The most recent data (2019) has grassy knoll declining in use, with high knoll the only type of knoll showing any significant increase in popularity.

Reversing the query, we can find out what things are described as grassy.

grassy *_NOUN

The grassy knoll doesn’t even get a look-in. The two current leaders are grassy slope and grassy bank. The nearest thing to a knoll is perhaps mound; grassy mound is pretty low down the rankings.

Interestingly, there were far fewer grassy things in the late twentieth century. I wonder why that is.

Other examples

Other examples I’ve come across include:

  • apportion blame
  • battered suitcase
  • blithering idiot
  • wry smile
  • emotional baggage

What examples have you seen or heard?


  1. NY Post (9 February 2022) And the Wordle backlash begins: Blaming this on the Americans, accessed 7 June 2022
  2. Metro (12 January 2022) Wordle fans upset that British game is using American spelling, accessed 7 June 2022
  3. NY Post (24 February 2022) Players outraged about Wordle again – this time over too British answer, accessed 7 June 2022
  4. Republic World (24 January 2022) Google search trend for knoll surges after it appears on Wordle; check what it means, accessed 7 June 2022
  5. In Your Area (26 January 2022) Stop it!: Wordle fans fume over social media spoilers, accessed 7 June 2022

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