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An Exaltation of Larks: The Ultimate Edition Paperback – November 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

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, and often poetic, terms unearthed by Mr. Lipton in the Books of Venery that were the constant study of anyone who aspired to the title of gentleman in the fifteenth century. When Mr. Lipton's painstaking research revealed that five hundred years ago the terms of venery had already been turned into the Game of Venery, he embarked on an odyssey that has given us a "slouch of models", a "shrivel of critics", an "unction of undertakers", a "blur of Impressionists", a "score of bachelors", and a "pocket of quarterbacks". This ultimate edition of An Exaltation of Larks is Mr. Lipton's brilliant answer to the assault on language and literacy in the last decades of the twentieth century. In it you will find more than 1,100 resurrected or newly minted contributions to that most endangered of all species, our language, in a setting of 250 witty, beautiful, and remarkably apt engravings.

About the Author

James Lipton is the creator, executive producer, writer, and host of Inside the Actors Studio, which is seen in eighty-nine million homes in America on the Bravo network, and in 125 countries, and has received fourteen Emmy nominations. He is the author of the novel Mirrors, which he then adapted and produced for the screen, and of the American literary perennial An Exaltation of Larks, and has written the book and lyrics of two Broadway musicals. His television productions include Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural Gala, the first presidential concert ever televised; twelve Bob Hope birthday specials, reaching record-breaking audiences; and The Road to China, the first American entertainment program from the People’s Republic. He is a vice president of the Actors Studio, is the founder and dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University, has received three honorary PhDs, is a recipient of France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Emmy by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (November 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140170960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140170962
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Here's a real gem! AN EXALTATION OF LARKS (Ultimate Edition) is the culmination of more than two decades of Lipton's research of "nouns of multitude," which he prefers to call "terms of venery."
Many of these terms are commonplace: plague of locusts, pride of lions, litter of pups. Imagine, though, hearing these expressions for the first time. Lipton invites us to "sharpen our senses by restoring the magic to the mundane."
Lipton traced a number of these terms back to the 1400s, specifically to THE BOOK OF ST. ALBANS, printed in 1486. In addition to today's ordinary terms, he discovered some that had a fresh sound, precisely because they had not made the 500-year journey to our modern era.
Lipton identifies six sources of inspiration for the terms. He lists these "Families" with the following examples:
1. Onomatopoeia: a murmuration of starlings, a gaggle of geese.
2. Characteristic (by far the largest Family): a leap of leopards, a skulk of foxes.
3. Appearance: a knot of toads, a parliament of owls.
4. Habitat: a shoal of bass, a nest of rabbits.
5. Comment (pro or con depending on viewpoint): a richness of martens, a cowardice of curs.
6. Error (in transcription or printing; sometimes preserved for centuries): "school" of fish was originally intended to be "shoal."
Lipton enthusiastically joined the "game" of coining terms, which had been in progress for more than 500 years. In 1968 he published his first EXALTATION OF LARKS, which contained 175 terms -- some from Middle English, some original. Neither the hardbound nor the paperback edition went out of print before the Ultimate Edition (with more than 1,000 terms) was published in 1991.
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Format: Paperback
Why do English speakers say, "A pack of dogs" when refering to a number of dogs together, but always refer to puppies as "a litter of puppies"? Is it the random quirkiness of our spoken language?
Would you believe such sayings have a tangible history, and have been planned?
This is the topic of James Lipton's sometimes humorous but always classic book, An Exaltation of Larks. If you've ever the privledge of watching the actor's studio, then you know of James Lipton--one of television's finest interviews and hosts.
In 1968, he wrote a book about the beauty and flexibility of the English language called an Exaltation of Larks. It is a study of the English-speaking tradition of coupling words to describe a set, where both words indicate the same thing, such as "a rope of pearls" and "a school of fish."
For the first part of the book, Mr. Lipton list the more common phrases and the research that has gone into finding out their meaning--where, for instance, "a pride of lions" originated and how long ago it was first used. (The oldest in the English langauge, apparently!)
Where the 1968 edition--which has never been out of print--had only had 118 pages and 175 terms, the Ultimate edition has 300 pages and 1,100 terms.
This would make a very fine gift for any Anglophile, artist, writer or comic. Witty, warm, and extremely observant, with clever line illustrations; a plus to any friend's library or your own.
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Format: Paperback
James Lipton's "An Exaltation of Larks" is a splendid curiosity and a must for any etymology lover's bookshelf. In it, Lipton gathers together virtually every known existing grouping phrase (as in a murder of crows, a leap of leopards, and, naturally, an exaltation of larks) and even admits to adding a few of his own--ones which he felt ought to be in use, even if they weren't already. The result is exhilarating good fun.
A few of the choicer phrases are shown below, although of course it's difficult to pick out just a few gems when there is a treasure trove within these covers:
A rash of dermatologists;
A pound of Englishmen;
A solidarity of Poles;
An outback of Aussies;
A quicksand of credit cards;
A thrill of brides;
A convulsion of belly dancers;
An insanity of clauses.
Lipton gives all sorts of fascinating background on the existing phrases and provides many good reasons for the ones he makes up. The result is a hoot, and lots of fun to read aloud to your friends and family. Accompanying the text are superb, crisp old engravings of everything under the sun, each appropriate to the particular section in which it appears (sections include "Romance and Raunch," "People, Places & Things," "The Unknown," "The Unexpected," "Professions," and more). "An Exaltation of Larks" is the perfect gift for the word-lover who has everything else.
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Format: Paperback
If you have reluctant young readers it the house, buy this book and put it in the bath room or lay it on the cereal table. It is fun to pick it up and snatch a page or two about the delightful monikers we can call groups of animals and things. Everyone in my house now knows that when we see geese in the sky, we ought rightly to call them a "skein of geese", whereas when they land, the instantly become a gaggle. This stuff is fun to know!
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