James Lipton is more recently known for his work on Inside the Actors Studio.  In 1968, he compiled an entertaining book of collective nouns – An Exaltation of Larks - made more delightful by its selection of engravings.  It has been in print for many years and is a must for lovers of the English language.  And it’s just a fun book to own.  (Thanks to my sister for her recent much appreciated gift).

Lipton lists six families of collective nouns or “venereal” terms as coined in the subtitle.

1. Onomatopoeia:  for example, A MURMURATION OF STARLINGS, A GAGGLE OF GEESE

2. Characteristic: A LEAP OF LEOPARDS, A SKULK OF FOXES.  This is by far the largest family.

3. Appearance: A KNOT OF TOADS, A BOUQUET OF PHEASANTS

4. Habitat: A SHOAL OF BASS, A NEST OF RABBITS

5. Comment: (pro or con, reflecting the observer’s point of view:  A RICHNESS OF MARTENS, A COWARDICE OF CURS

6. Error: (resulting from the incorrect transcription by a scribe or printer, faithfully preserved in the corrupted form by subsequent compilers):  A SCHOOL OF FISH, originally “shoal”.

Given my interest in genealogy and/or a recent visit of house guests, this one struck me as amusing – A DESCENT OF RELATIVES.

I wonder, what is the collective noun for facilitators?

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator, Sydney

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