The Winners: James Lipton Picks Your Best Collective Nouns

Extra Credit

Friday, May 02, 2014

One of the winning phrases from Studio 360's Collective Nouns challenge One of the winning phrases (Julia Lowrie Henderson/Trey Ratcliff/flickr)

Generations of word lovers have been turned on by James Lipton’s An Exaltation of Larks. The book details the provenance of more than 1,100 “nouns of venery,” as they are were called in the 15th century, including a pride of lions, a smack of jellyfish, an ostentation of peacocks, and many more.

In his research for the book, Lipton (best known as the host of Inside the Actors Studio) discovered that linguists in 1486 delighted in making up names for people, as well: a superfluity of nuns, an eloquence of lawyers, an incredulity of cuckolds. “And that’s when I began to play the game,” he says. He would invite his friends over to invent new ones — the playwright Neil Simon suggested “a mews of cathouses.”

Kurt Andersen challenged listeners to continue the game, coming up with collective nouns for ten modern types of people, including hipsters, venture capitalists, and yoga instructors. We received thousands of invented nouns. Lipton served as our judge.

→ Read all the entries

An enigma of conceptual artists

An enigma of conceptual artists
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/Conrad Bakker/flickr)


A deck of Trekkies

A deck of Trekkies
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/Brian Wilkins/flickr)


A rave of DJs

A rave of DJs
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/4ELEVEN Images/flickr)


A hedge of venture capitalists

A hedge of venture capitalists
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/401(K) 2012/flickr)


An altcommandcontrolshift of IT guys

An altcommandcontrolshift of IT guys
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/Peter Taylor/flickr)


A pan of critics

A pan of critics
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/Shutterstock)


A festival of indie filmmakers

A festival of indie filmmakers
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/Stacker/flickr)


A vintage of hipsters

A vintage of hipsters
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/Bill Dickinson/flickr)


A salutation of yoga instructors

A salutation of yoga instructors
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/Taro Taylor/flickr)

NOTE: Ken Wieland also suggested a "salutation," but we failed to credit him on-air — Ken, we salute you!


A Ring of opera goers

A Ring of opera goers
(Credit: Julia Lowrie Henderson/Trey Ratcliff/flickr)
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James Lipton

Produced by:

Jenny Lawton

Comments [11]

Brian Friesen from Portland, Oregon

Today I read an upchuck of Facebook posts.

May. 13 2014 12:53 PM
Rojasp from Juneau, Alaska

Loved listening to the author of An Exaltation of Larks, a favorite of mine. I was given a copy by a friend sometime in the 1980's, and it was a great gift I still reread and treasure.
I would like to point out that the book presents a group of whales as a GAM of whales. Today, we use "pod of whales," which would be accurate if talking about seals (as I recall, I don't have the book handy). I think we should rise up as a RANT of ETYMOLOGISTIC PURISTS and put this right! Scientists may know their whales, but they've got a lot to learn when it comes to GROUPS of whales. And I'm sure we can get them to pay attention. Yeah, right.
From Juneau, Alaska, where I regularly get to see humpbacks and orcas just a walk away.

May. 04 2014 10:57 PM
Natasha from Salt Lake City

A vain of supermodels

May. 04 2014 08:45 PM
LRSears from OKC

A Hack of IT Guys
A Query of Database Programmers

May. 04 2014 08:38 PM
twig from lake placid NY

a slide of skiers
a kick of soccer players

May. 04 2014 04:18 PM
Tyler Bolles from Burlington, VT

A "tallboy" of hipsters?

May. 04 2014 03:19 PM

You got the yoga instructors wrong. It should be: a pose of yoga instructors.

May. 04 2014 01:27 PM
Dianne Dubler from Manhattan

If you do it again: a mat of yoga instructors

May. 04 2014 11:23 AM
art525 from Park Slope

A contrivance of hipsters.

May. 03 2014 04:18 PM
AJW from Stony Creek, CT

A "Ring of Opera-Goers" because they sit in a ring? Nonsense. Certainly the noun is in reference to Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen"? I call this an example of a myopia of wordsmiths.

May. 03 2014 08:48 AM
phillip radoff from Wayland, MA

Why not call the program "An Inspiration of Collective Nouns"?

May. 03 2014 08:05 AM

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