Thursday, November 6, 2008

An Exaltation of Blicky: BK Scores an Interview with James Lipton



I have long wanted to do a post on a lovely little book that I've pored over keenly for years. Every time I've told people about An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton, I've always scoffed at the suggestion that it's the ten questions dude from the Actor's studio. "No this is an academic book," I derided with a snort. Um, so imagine my surprise when I googled his name and found that the handsome young academic pictured on the jacket was actually a clean-shaven version of the ten questions dude.

The book is subtitled The Venereal Game, but lest you think it's a drinking pursuit for infectious frat boys, read on. The root of the word comes from Venus, and while we usually associate it with physical love, it may also be defined "to desire (and therefore) to pursue." The words venery and venereal were used to describe all things associated with the hunt.

Lipton's Exaltation of Larks is really a celebration of the English language with all it's rich shades of meaning, confluence of sources, and playful expressiveness. He traces the origins of traditional hunting terms known as "nouns of multitude." Lipton describes his thesis simply: "when a group of ravens flaps by, you should, if you want to refer to their presence, say, 'There goes an unkindness of ravens.' Anything else would be wrong."

His sources for the book were social manuals or books of courtesy that codified the terms. From the Middle Ages, the hunt was traditionally the exclusive realm of the aristocracy. These books were created to provide gentlemen a "means of social acceptability," or to prevent awkward conversational blunders when in polite society.

Some of my favorites include:
  • a murmuration of starlings,
  • a bouquet of pheasants,
  • a richness of martens,
  • a murder of crows,
  • a dissimulation of birds,
  • a siege of herons,
  • an ostentation of peacocks
  • and, of course, a clowder of cats
In hopes that "a charm of poetry will have quietly slipped into our lives," Lipton included a chapter of terms that were created later as pure fun and play and threw in some of his own. In this spirit, we should create some terms with contemporary relevance:
  • a parsimony of lenders,
  • a ribaldry of teenage pop stars,
  • an intemperance of halloween candy,
  • a this-is-the-big-one of Elisabeths
  • a cupidity of consumers,
  • a cuchi-cuchi of 70's tv icons,
  • a rapacity of investment bankers,
  • a salaciousness of Giraldo Riveras,
  • a potence of voters,
  • a deliciousness of toddlers' thighs,
  • a babbling of news anchors.
Feel free to add your own...

Unfortunately, Blicky's interview withy James Lipton was cut short:

Blicky Kitty: Meow, What is favorite word?
James Lipton: Those are my questions.
BK: Meow, OK, is it true, meow worked as a maquereau in post-WWII Paris translating for prositutes and taking American tourists to sex shows?
JL: Damn you, Blicky Kitty! I knew I should have done the Giraldo Rivera interview instead.

58 comments:

Poetikat said...

A pettifoggery of lawyers
A watershed of vacillators
A preponderance of know-it-alls
A conveyance of realtors...

This is fun!

Kat

Heather said...

Love this post! I've been on the hunt for the Lipton book for some time now (being the gigantic word nerd that I am, you know) and have yet to come across a copy. I've languished on the hold list for the ONE supposed copy that exists within our county's public library system for ages now...

The Grandpa said...

A collage of bloggers
A juxtaposition of neighbors

MuseSwings said...

One of the books I browse through often! Great post!
How about:
A shaking of psalters
A brilliance of lightbulbs
A floating of corks
A bloodletting of vampires
A pommel of boxers
A smuggle of thieves
A dyspepsia of gluttons
An upmix of dyslexics

MuseSwings said...

I finally got my sorry old you-know-what to the post office today. Tell the Blick to hang out by the mail box. Should show up in 2-3 days. Blick is just moments away from a buff butt.

Blicky Kitty said...

Oh these are so much fun! I love a pettifoggery of lawyers and a dyspepsia of gluttons. Grandpa, I think we have a juxtaposition of neighbors on our street!

I knew I couldn't be the only word geek fan of this book! Heather you can probably find them used online. Mine is a dog-eared copy given by an ex-swain.

Thanks Cynthia! I'll send Blicky right out into the rain. He can chase the squirrels away from the birdfeeders while he's out there.

willow said...

I checked this book out from the library some back back and adored it! I need a copy for my little manor library. Witty post, as always, Blicky!

Poetikat said...

BK - I love that "ex-swain". I have far too many of those to count (that's not a good thing, trust me).

Sounds so chivalrous.

You slay me!

Kat

Anna Lefler said...

Oh, lovelovelove it!

My vet used to have a poster in his waiting room of all those descriptions artfully doodled into shapes...I always got lost in it while waiting for my non-Blicky-but-still-adored kitties.

And here's mine:

A flatulence of publicists

:^) Anna

Lavinia said...

Quite interesting. I've always liked a murder of crows. Makes me think of that movie "The Birds". So sinister!

MuseSwings said...

Blick has gotten himself an award - stop by -on Friday's post.

Blicky Kitty said...

I agree Lavinia! It's one of the stranger ones :).

Anna I love your addition. Did you notice I give you an automatic shout out whenever I can work Geraldo Rivera into a post? It might be a stretch for the 15th century art ones. :)

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

I loved this post. You're hysterical one minute and educating the hell out of us the next. How existential (as Lipton says in that Geico commercial). And I'm undubitably using it incorrectly. And while I enjoyed the whole post, I would like to single out my favorite monitor spitting moment:

a this-is-the-big-one of Elisabeths

JamieH said...

LOVED this post!

cat said...

Happy SITS day from one Kitty to another.

Mimi said...

Hahahahaha!

Yaya said...

I always love blicky kitty's interviews.

Jes the Bes said...

It's about time someone turned the table on Jimmy.

Debbie said...

You are wickedly funny!

Cammie said...

LMAO!!!
Happy SITS day!!!

Laura said...

Happy SITS!

Willo said...

I tried to read his autobiography and couldn't get past the first 30 pages. He is, well self-assured to say the least.

Reluctant Housewife said...

Awesome. Blicky sure is hard-hitting with his questions.

Industrioushead said...

I like the way Blicky gets right to the point!

Ali said...

Great interview, BK!

Tonya said...

You are too funny!

Rbarakat said...

Enjoy your SITS day!

Kelly Deneen said...

hehe. Blicky Kitty if so funny! ha! Happy SITS day!!

Angie Marion said...

Blikcy Kitty is hilarious! congrats on being FB over at SiTS!

Amy said...

What?? That is way too funny.

Vickie said...

Enjoy your SITS day!

Susan said...

Have a great SITS Day

verygoodyear said...

This sounds like a book I'd love to check out :] Thanks!

Hillori said...

A vomitous of dirty dishes?

Christine aka Mistress of Cakes said...

A plethora of pee pee diapers


Happy Sits day---you are a nut job..but in a cool sort of way lol

Mariel said...

i will totally be googling this book. thanks!

Jessica - This Is Worthwhile said...

I love words... and yet, I can't think of one thing to contribute to your list! ...... Nope. Nuthin'.

carma said...

fun! I'm guilty of many awkward conversational blunders!!

shortmama said...

ohhh blicky kitty...you are purringly funny

jubilee said...

How about a demagogeury of candidates?

Loved this post! Happy SITS day!

Charmaine said...

Wow.

Toni said...

Happy Sits Day . Great post. I had never heard of this person or this book before actually

Jen said...

You are one funny blogger!

Michelle said...

You have a seriously unusual blog. LOL

Amy said...

Now, I am going to have to rush out and buy that book... if I can find it. From what I have read on your blog, it seems pretty hard to get. I am super excited to find your blog, and to discover such a wonderful book. Thank you!

Happy Sits day!

Zeemaid said...

I dunno still sounds too acadamic for me. *L*

:)

christy rose said...

LOL Extremely Different Blog than i have ever seen!

Merrily Down the Stream said...

A penultimum of December 30ths...
Okay - that was lame.

Happy SITS day

C.G. the Foodie said...

I am loving your blog! Happy SITS day!

Mom said...

Great blog kitty! Funny!

Stop by and visit.
Life...EXAGGERATED

Marrdy said...

A clowder of cats...I like that!

Jennifer said...

You are Super Funny LOL
Happy SITS :)

Intelligence said...

An enigma of omniscience!

Very funny!!

Leslie said...

I really like James Lipton AND his ten questions. And I'm a lover of the language, so it sounds like I'd enjoy his book as well. Thanks for sharing!

Stalker v1.5 said...

I am so picking this up tomorrow! Thanks!

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

Oh, I am definitely going to need to pick up this book... ;)

Happy SITS Day! :)

Fresh Mommy said...

Sounds like such an enriching book!! I'll have to check it out now.

:)
~Tabitha~

freshmommyblog.com

Michelle said...

At least you tried....