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An Unkindness of Ravens: A Book of Collective Nouns

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  121 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Why are geese in a gaggle? Are crows really murderous? And what makes lions so proud? Collective nouns are one of the most charming oddities of the English language, often with seemingly bizarre connections to the groups they identify. But have you ever stopped to wonder where these peculiar terms actually came from? Most of those found in this book have their origins in t ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published September 11th 2014 by Michael O'Mara Books Ltd
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Amalia Gkavea
''Stand near woodland in early spring, after night has fallen and when the air is still, and if you're lucky, you'll hear the thrilling, trilling song of the nightingale.''

Few things can be more relaxing and soothing than the nightingales' song in the twilight. Those of us who live in the big cities where every sound of nature is drawn in a cacophony of cars and humans rarely get the chance to enjoy the chirping of Nature's greatest singers. Birds have always fascinated us. They embody tranq
...more
Dane Cobain
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well, here’s a concept that you don’t see very often – An Unkindness of Ravens is a book of collective nouns, like ‘a gaggle of geese‘ or ‘a pride of lions‘, and it makes for pretty fascinating reading. The author delves into the history behind each of the terms, which largely originated in the Middle Ages amongst the aristocracy, and my only criticism about the way that she does it is that she relies on a single source, An Exaltation of Larks, far more than she ought to.

That said, if you’re a l
...more
J.T. Wilson
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book of collective nouns is a familiar enough conceit: is there a collective noun for books of collective nouns? A Kindle of collective noun books perhaps? This one, however, exceeded modest expectations with medieval tidbits, orinthological facts and charming illustrations. Of course, most of the ones you'd expect have their etymology explored (apart from a flamboyance of flamingoes), together with some surprising obscurities from Middle England. Who knew that the collective noun for monks wa ...more
Alan Hughes
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
A confectionary of collective nouns
Deborah-Ruth
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fun little read. I just saw it on the library shelf and thought "why not?" It's a short book detailing some of the collective nouns we use to describe people, places, and things - some are well-known like a "Pride of Lions" and others lesser known like "A zeal of zebras." It is one of those fun useless trivia books to impress people at parties I suppose. Apparently these collective nouns were first written to distinguish the upperborn from the lower class (showing a sense of education) so they ...more
Richard Thomas
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
A really fun and interesting book. Mainly a curiosity or coffee table piece as it's essentially a niche reference book. I'm actually looking forward to more books of this sort as they fill me with heaps of unnecessary knowledge!
Don
Jul 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, words, 2020
An interesting, informative and, in parts, amusing book. It includes a useful introduction to collective nouns in general, explaining how (as a group) they came into being as terms of venery, that is of hunting, particularly as practised by the aristocratic classes. The author tells us that the 'terms were recorded because they formed part of the education of the nobility'. Some, however, appear to be fairly modern and some to have been made up by compilers of collections of collective nouns.

Ind
...more
Alex James
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it

There is much to learn in this short collection of collective nouns, of how they were used by the nobility in medieval times to categorise animals to hunt, or even colloquially in medieval times to describe certain groups of people with distinct attributes, separating the noble born from peasants There are small sections in each entry charting the evolution of the nouns later and sometimes up until the present, showing you comparative differences in their use.

An Unkindness of Ravens gave me a p
...more
Karen-Leigh
Dec 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language
I bought this book expecting it to be amusing and it was somewhat. It was also informative in unexpected ways and I learned quite a few oddments but the book was full of death. Casually accepted and noted in passing. Most of the collectives were assigned by hunters to their prey. All these beautiful animals were hunted for sport or for food in huge numbers. The book rings with human cruelty. Unintended I am sure because the information was only grace notes throughout the potted history of each ...more
Sandra
Feb 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2020
Entertaining, mildly informative and a good example of what a loo book ought to be - short pieces in largeish font - and while sources were given in each example I couldn't help feeling this was a bit of a self-indulgent scouring on the part of the author which, in turn (and in some way ridiculously), reduced its authority. But I accept that might be just me.
Chaitra
This was a lot of fun. I read quite a bit of this book last year preparing for a challenge, but I went through it once more. The sources for some collective nouns are obvious, but a lot of them were unknown to me, and very interesting. Glad to have read this book.
Lana Sidhe
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I ended up reading this entire book over a couple of casual stops at Waterstone's and bought it afterwards (it would have been unfair not to). It's short and sweet, both in the number of collective nouns listed, and in its concise recount of the history of their origins. I also massively appreciated the backstory of entries such as "a fighting of beggars," and "a herd of harlots," which criticised olden (and modern) attitudes towards groups of people which many deem somehow inferior. The latter ...more
Rachael
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More as reference...fun to open at random spots and discover different collective nouns. Book for the shelf as future reference
Tim Caines
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyable and insightful. A few nice references to Hardy and Shakespeare.
Francesca Burke
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really interesting and informative, recommend to etymologists and animal lovers especially.
Katy Watkins
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'd give it a 2.5. After a while, the explanations for why company names are what they are became repetitive, but that's the nature of the beast I suppose.
A Hellyer
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not a gripping read (as seen from my start and finish dates), but interesting nevertheless.
Ludmila Marton
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
A dive into history as well as language. Very interesting.
Steven Heywood
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
A bit uninspired and "James Lipton came up with something a bit jolly for no apparent reason" got a bit tiresome after a while
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