Saturday, July 19, 2008

O, Exaltation

I got the coolest book the other day. It’s not on the List because it’s a flipping-through-and-enjoying book, and one of my rules about the Book List Project was that only books that I sat down and read all the way through would make it. (I do tend to finish books, but sometimes I am defeated by boring writers and lazy copyeditors.) Really, it’s a practical restriction: I also flip through lots of knitting books and home interior books, and including those would artificially inflate the list. And you know, this is such a very important and serious project of mine that I have to put rules on it. But I’m not a control freak. Much.

Anyway. The book.

It’s called “An Exaltation of Larks” by some dude named James Lipton, who apparently is some kind of actor. The book itself, as you might be able to tell from the title, is a collection of … you guessed it…. Collective nouns! This book is a treasure trove for word freaks like myself. Not only does it include the usual “gaggle of geese” and “murder of crows” but also the amazingly lyrical “exaltation of larks” and “parliament of owls.” I’m also fond of “a worship of writers” (because Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary defined “patron” as “a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery”).

I’m hoping to work a few of these collectives into daily speech (as a means to get them back into common use – because English isn’t strange and wonderful enough already). Let’s see: I’ve been one of an “erudition of editors,” an “iamb of poets,” and “a conjunction of grammarians.”

I stand daily before “a failing of students” or “a dilation of pupils.” I am part of a “leap of overachievers” and sometimes I visit “a brood of researchers.”

I envy “a shush of librarians” who work in “a trove of libraries.”

How wonderful is that?

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