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An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton
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An Exaltation of Larks (1968)

by James Lipton

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The introduction is interesting as it traces these terms of "venery" back to 1486 with the publication of the Book of Albans. It is these earlier terms, often hunting terms, that are the most interesting. Some are familiar; many are not. I especially like "a charm of finches," "a hover of trout," & "a pencil of lines." Later additions, mostly having to do with various groupings of people, are less compelling. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
An exaltation of larks, or, The venereal game by James Lipton is presented as a book of poetry, which is really a bit of a misnomer. The book is much more like a poorly executed dictionary.

Language itself is poetic, and the author introduces the reader to a class of nouns known as "collective nouns", also referred to as "nouns of assembly" or "terms of venery", hence the title, The venereal game. The "nouns of assembly" are words for groups of animals originating from the English hunting tradition of the Late Middle Ages. The Book of Saint Albans compiled in 1486, lists 165 of such collective nouns.

James Lipton has divided An exaltation of larks, or, The venereal game into four parts: Part 1, collective nouns commonly known and still regularly used, Part 2, collective nouns known by well-educated people, but occasionally used, Part 3, collective nouns now rarely used and generally not known, and Part 4, new collective nouns invented by the author. In the introduction the author explains that his choice of terms in all three first parts of the book that his choices are fairly random, taken from the known sources. The very few terms of the author's own invention are not very imaginative or creative. They apply to animals and have been extended to "nouns of assembly" of groups of people, of which many examples can already be found in Book of Saint Albans.

Examples of "terms of venery" are:

A congregation of alligators.

A herd of asses.

A swarm of bees.

A troop of apes.

A flock of birds.

A pack of dogs.

A team of horses.

A pride of lions

A shoal of mackerel.

or less well known

A sounder of boars (12 or more !)

A bellowing of bullfinches.

A clowder of cats.

A drunkenship of cobblers.

A convocation of eagles.

A gaggle of geese. (on land)

A gaggle of geese. (in flight)

A charm of goldfinches.

An array of hedgehogs.

A bloat of hippopotamuses.

A fluther of jellyfish.

An exaltation of larks.

A superfluity of nuns.

A parliament of owls.

An ostentation of peacocks.

A bouquet of pheasants.

A bevy of quail.

A crash of rhinoceroses.

A bank of swans (on land)

A wedge of swans (in flight)

A lamentation of swans (fanciful)

Regarding the author's selection in the first three parts, he claims never to have aimed to present a complete collection, which given the limited scope of the total number of words would actually have been a more logical choice. The book is illustrated with wood cuts.

It seems An exaltation of larks, or, The venereal game could potentially be a very interesting book, more likely as a work of reference with poetical quality. However, the author did not realize that potential, and his creative contribution is limp and minimal. A missed chance, but still a very interesting book for lexicographers, albeit incomplete. ( )
  edwinbcn | Sep 2, 2013 |
A lexographile's dream. (And yes, I made that word up. I feel entitled.)
  Snukes | Jun 14, 2013 |
got this at an antiques store yesterday, which was happy-making. i did not guess, at that point, that it was truly *the* james lipton; i'm not sure how i feel about that, but the book is great (looking) nonetheless.
  Lacy.Simons | Apr 3, 2013 |
A real gem for my obsessive desire to categorize things. :-) ( )
  TadAD | Jun 2, 2008 |
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If you've ever wondered whether familiar terms like "a pride of lions" or "a string of ponies" were only the tip of the liguistic iceberg. This book provides the definitive answer. This classic collection of collective nouns includes more than 1,100 equally pithy, and often poetic, terms -- some resurrected from the Books of Venery that were the constant study of fifteenth-century gentlemen; some ("a blur of Impressionists," "a score of bachelors") more recently minted. Here too is a game for readers inspired to invent their own terms of venery. Infectious in spirit and beautifully illustrated with more than 250 witty engravings, this book is a word-lover's garden of delights.… (more)

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