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An Exaltation of Larks: The Ultimate Edition

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  525 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
An "exaltation of larks"? Yes! And a "leap of leopards," a "parliament of owls," an "ostentation of peacocks," a "smack of jellyfish," and a "murder of crows"! For those who have ever wondered if the familiar "pride of lions" and "gaggle of geese" were only the tip of a linguistic iceberg, James Lipton has provided the definitive answer: here are hundreds of equally pithy, ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 1st 1993 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1968)
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Popular Answered Questions

Lisa Buie-Collard More importantly, what is a Tidings of Magpies?! Ha ha! Page 53...
David There doesn't appear to be.

Egret is not listed in the index.

Do you know a group term for them?

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,178)
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Olga Godim
Oct 06, 2014 Olga Godim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Loved this book. It’s a linguistic treatise about the names for groups: groups of various animals, or groups of people of various professions or social circles, or groups of abstract concepts. A Comedy of Errors is in this book (yes, it’s a group name, created by Shakespeare, not the genre name). So is a School of Fish or a Barrel of Monkeys or an Exaltation of Larks. It includes over 1000 terms, some more established than others.
Lipton writes about his sources for this book, some of them from
Mary Catelli
Oct 22, 2016 Mary Catelli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-other
A book for people who've mastered such basics as a pride of lions and want to go onward. To a murder of crows, a parliament of owls, or a truelove of doves.

You can have your pick for cats: clowder, cluster, and clutter are all recorded. Though some have distinctions: it is a gaggle of geese on the grounds, but a skein of geese in the air.

Some are more fun than others, and he includes a long section with possibilities for new ones.
Nov 22, 2010 Kate rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2010
A gaggle of geese.

A comedy of errors.

A rash of dermatologists?!

If you've ever wondered whether familiar terms like "a pride of lions" or "a string of ponies" were only the tip of a linguistic iceberg, An Exaltation of Larks 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 Impressionist
An exquisite reference book to all things venereal--the adjectival form of "terms of venery" or hunting terms of course. You know pride of lions and gaggle of geese, but how about parliament of owls. The book details the 15th century terms for animals, people and things to bring to light stuff you knew but never thought of--a clutch of eggs, a comedy of errors. In addition, the real fun comes from Lipton's new additions: a charge of shoppers, a deal of agents, a book of Mormons (I liked it too, ...more
❂ Jennifer
Jan 18, 2015 ❂ Jennifer rated it really liked it
A fun read, if sometimes a bit dry during Mr. Lipton's introductions. His love of language comes through clearly, but his style edges close to academic dissertation at times. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it though; the terms are clever and sometimes snarky and the author included a section at the back with different games a group of like minded language lovers can play if they feel inspired. I'll enjoy dipping back into this book again and again.

Full review:
Apr 15, 2016 Kristin rated it did not like it
I love the collective nouns that are the subject of this book. The lists of them compiled during the fifteenth century are the subject of one of my dissertation chapters. This book, however, is the most pretentious thing I have ever read. It could say, "Look at this cool linguistic game." Instead, it says, "Look how witty James Lipton is." He spends a lot of time discussing his journey in researching these terms (as if he were the only one to ever do so) and how this version of his book compares ...more
Gaile Wakeman
Dec 04, 2008 Gaile Wakeman rated it liked it
This book is really fun. I have searching for this in used book stores and I finally found an old hardcover copy. I heard James on NPR once and he was talking about this book--I became curious about such and esoteric subject.
May 16, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it
Initially, I misjudged James Lipton’s quirky and curious book, An Exaltation of Larks, missing the playful and fanciful element. When I read that a group of elk is called a gang, I felt only unalloyed disgust. Perhaps among flabby academicians, elk are referred to as gangs. But, I live among muscular mountain men who would laugh in derision at that term. Or fix you with a questioning stare.

This book didn’t grab me until I started from the beginning.The dedication: For my mother, Betty Lipton, w
Oct 22, 2008 Summer rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
This book is a quick, pleasant read with a bonus of lasting fun playing the Game of Venery. Mr. Lipton included "a browse of readers." I would like to propose "a volume of books." And now it's your turn...
Aug 19, 2011 Anandi rated it really liked it
Received this from my High School English teacher Mr. Charles (Charlie) Roemer when I graduated.
Sep 23, 2010 Kristina rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Love the show; hideous idea for a book. I mean, REALLY.
Probably my favorite bits of this book were the introductions before each chapter. You really got a sense of how much Lipton loved words and the hunt for new terms of venery and really, it was just lovely to read. I was astonished at some of the terms that have been around since the 15th century and even more impressed as Lipton related some of his searches as he tried to discover just what some of them meant and how they came to be called their term.

However, while usually terms of venery excite
Dec 16, 2011 Jacob rated it liked it
As a lover of language especially English I bought this book out of curiosity. As it turns out James Lipton has preserved an important part of history. I had no idea how important terms for groups were throughout history. Most of the book is a, if i may, 'collection of images.' However, Mr. Lipton divides the book into sections and with each section he provides an insightful introduction or summary. These sections highlight the importance of just such a book and why he undertook the task to crea ...more
Feb 03, 2012 Giedra rated it liked it
Fun book about "terms of venery"; that is, words to describe groups of things. Although most of these terms that we're most familiar with are for animals--a pride of lions, a school of fish--there are many others. The first part of the book reviews terms that show up in some very old manuscripts--1486!!--and includes an excerpt from a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book in which one hunter berates another for not knowing all the correct terms. Apparently even into the 19th century there were a lot MORE ...more
Rachel Rogers
Apr 02, 2009 Rachel Rogers rated it really liked it
Terms of venery - aka what do you call a group of something? Several owls = a parliament of owls; a school of fish; a murder of crows; etc. More than a hundred of these have been passed through history since the 16th century or earlier. The last several hundred Lipton and others have made up over the last 30 years. The first ones are better, more poetic and beautiful; the modern creations, while some of them are lyrical others feel forced. Still, it's a fascinating study of language.

My consisten
Jim Lyons
Oct 18, 2016 Jim Lyons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book about the history of words, with a poetic bent? Not my normal fare, but as a bird-lover I had been curious about some of the "venereal terms" used for various species, and finding this book (expanded second edition, in my local library) has made for some noteworthy entertainment and education for me. And yes, it's that James Lipton!
Sep 19, 2007 Michael rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: word nerds.
Although at first glance it appears to be no more than a novelty of a reference book, An Exaltation of Larks is a surprisingly enjoyable work one can read straight through. This is primarily owing to the affection the author has put into presenting each term of venery, reflecting years of research to dredge up the meanings behind many an obscure reference. What additionally makes the book a joy to read is the very style with which Lipton writes, reverent and stuffy in the very best learned Briti ...more
Jun 14, 2008 Justwinter rated it really liked it
aeolist: (EE-uh-list) a pompous, windy bore who pretends to have inspiration

blatteroon: a person who won't shut up; a constant talker

microlipet: (My-kroh-LIP-it) someone who gets all worked up about trivial things

wowser: a persnickety, puritanical, self-righteous snob


chavish:(CHAY-vish) the sound of many birds chirping or singing at once

plangent: (PLAN-jent) having a loud, deep, reverberating sound like bells clanging, thunder rumbling, or the waves breaking on the shore

susurrus: (suu_SUR-us) a
Jim Booth
Jul 30, 2014 Jim Booth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delightful book for anyone who loves words... see the full review at - link available at my Goodreads page.

Thanks for stopping by!
Jan 13, 2014 Paula rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Jun 23, 2009 Bunny rated it liked it
Recommended to Bunny by: James Lipton
Shelves: read-in-09
Okay, this is just neat.

The terms in this book, the real ones, are amusing as hell. The ones that were made up and collected by James Lipton are so witty and hilarious. I can't even remember all of them. Of course, I remember "A Mount of Porn Stars". "A Rack of Sadomasochists." I would remember those, wouldn't I?

The only reason it doesn't get more stars is because the explanation for some of the terms is written in such a way as to need it's own explanation. I wish I'd had a dictionary on me whi
Jan 04, 2009 Cynthia rated it really liked it
Got this on loan from a friend for a few days and it's hysterical so far. A sweeping (yet not dry) exploration of the history of "grouping terms," such as a murder of crows or a pod of whales and how awareness of them came to be considered a sign of learnedness. Some of the funniest offerings were cooked up by a group of scholars walking by some hookers on the street. One called them "a jam of tarts," while another offered "a flourish of strumpets," and yet another (and my personal favorite), "a ...more
Oct 25, 2010 Tim rated it liked it
Its subtitle, the veneral game (tied to venery, the chase, hunting), is unfortunate, but these poetic words for gatherings of men and animals come from 15th century gentleman's manuals (this does not mean they were much in circulation, but its fun to think they were). This is a fun and mildly funny book, with some nice illustrations, vaguely related to the topics at hand. My favorite terms include a murder of crows, a crash of rhinoceroses, and a skulk of thieves. He also gives advice on making ...more
Jan 31, 2009 David rated it really liked it
This book is so much fun, one is almost tempted to forgive James Lipton for..

Well, there's so much to forgive James Lipton for. But in my fantasy, when he is wheeled before the tribunal for the sundry crimes against humanity perpetrated during "Inside the Actors Studio" (with Jennifer Lopez, REALLY, James?), instead of the straight thumbs down vote that would otherwise certainly be his fate, there will be - miraculously - a MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCE. Namely, the existence of this fine book.

Oh, don
Dorothyanne Brown
Nov 01, 2015 Dorothyanne Brown rated it liked it
Grabbed this book because years ago I had a couple of excellent books on the origin of phrases. I believe one was called "Horsefeathers". It was fascinating because it was filled with historical phrases I'd always wondered about.

This is not such a book. Interesting, but filled with neologisms that are the author's own and therefore cast the collection into doubt. If it were EITHER fish or fowl, it would be fine, but mixing historical phrases with newly made up ones just confuses me and makes me
Mar 15, 2015 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of fun to read and the illustrations are wonderful.
May 17, 2016 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This type of book is right up my alley! :D
Aug 04, 2015 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I would love to own this venery of words.
Dec 24, 2013 Jean rated it really liked it
If you love words, language & poetry, I highly recommend this book. Lipton provides the history behind collective nouns dating back to the 1500's and leads you through many stories and origins of the more peculiar ones. Towards the end he describes the "art" of coming up with your own terms of venery and how the game is played. A wonderful way to add a richness to language that is disappearing as we produce an "abbreviation of texters" and a "chirp of tweeters". I had so much fun reading thi ...more
Mar 02, 2012 Dale rated it really liked it
A quick and incredibly fun read. Lipton loves to play with language and invites you to join. The book is an exploration of what he dubs the Venereal Game; it collects what may be called "nous of multitude," "company terms," "nouns of assemblage," or "group terms" such as gaggle of geese and school of fish. Lipton takes us a lot farther and opens a field of study unknown. If it ever amused you to find out a group of crows was called a murder, than this book is for you.
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James Lipton is an American writer, poet, and dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School in New York City. He is the executive producer, writer and host of the Bravo cable television series, Inside the Actors Studio, which debuted in 1994. He is also a pilot and a member of AOPA.
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