A Frustration of Bugs

Volume 8, Issue 4; 04 Jan 2005; last modified 08 Oct 2010

An inconvenience of syntax errors. A bracket of XML. A line of text editors. A kitchen sink of emacsen…

One of my Christmas presents was An Exaltation of Larks , James Lipton's tour of venereal terms.

It's an almost thoroughly delightful little book. Its single, glaring flaw perpetrated by a book designer with no common sense. The book is full of long paragraphs of text set in italics.

A singular of boars…in italics???
A singular of boars…in italics???

Talk about bad for the eyes.

James Lipton is perhaps best known as the host of Bravo's Inside the Actor's Studio, a weekly talk show that he hosts. Each week he interviews someone from the film industry (actors, directors, etc.). He asks them questions about their craft, seems genuinely fond of the subject matter, and never delves into their messy divorces or sensational foibles. A quick web search reveals that there are some folks who really dislike his interview style. I am not one of them.

Nouns of multitude, group terms, or “terms of venery”, which James Lipton prefers, date back to at least 1450 and the publication of The Egerton Manuscript. In An Exaltation of Larks, all of the terms from that manuscript and the longer list in The Book of St. Albans are deciphered. The full list of more than 1,000 terms includes many modern examples as well.

The book ends with an exhortation to invent more, hence my attempts in the abstract. There are even a few party games in the back, if you prefer a little competition.

It's a “must have” volume if you love words.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. A vanity of blogs. A ring of mobile phones. A sea of digital photographs…


I like "a vanity of blogs". How about "a partition of Operating Systems"?

—Posted by Jeff Schiller on 13 Jan 2005 @ 06:13 UTC #

If you like this kind of thing, you should also try the "Superior Person's Little Book of Words" (now in 3 editions) by Peter Bowler (see interview at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/arts/ling/stories/s1042360.htm ). What I can't find on the Web is a reference to his other book "The Annotated Onamasticon". You can find the meaning of "onamasticon" in the aforementioned "Superior Person's Little Book of Words"; it is an ordered list of names, and the book is a list of 1000 strange but true names from the birth records. Since you can't read my copy, the ones that I remember most are "Mary Ann Ciancianci" (say it) and "North Shore Sydney Bridge". Seriously ...

—Posted by Anthony B. Coates on 11 Feb 2005 @ 07:46 UTC #

If whole books in italics didn't bother Aldus Manutius, they shouldn't bother you either. Get used to it.

—Posted by John Cowan on 24 Feb 2005 @ 11:17 UTC #

…a spritz of hairdressers; a titter of drag queens; a gallop of horses; a whiff of anti-perspirants; an amplification of steros; a volume of boomboxes; a deliberation of judges; a felony of crooks; a gallop of horses; a leap of show-jumpers; a solefull of shoes; an enterprise of [Star] Trekkies; a babble of talk shows; a collaboration of couples; a quick-step of dancers; a dazzle of celebrities; a percentage of agents; a foreplay of golfers; a sandtrap of duffers; a prose of editors; a text of typographers; a misprint of typesetters; a binary of computers; an inspiration of modern venery terms…*

*FYI, y'all: My husband & I came up with the first two terms several years ago after my husband's serendipitous sighting of a hair-school graduation; however, the rest of this list was created live, in real time, during the typing [keyboarding?] of this comment.**

**We cannot be sure that each & every aforementioned venereal term is entirely original, but we hope that at least they will give all of you some occasion for amusement, as all of them certainly continue to do for us~{{;>}~!!!

—Posted by Jon & Betsie Bolger Mott on 15 Aug 2006 @ 05:37 UTC #