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A wreck of Hesperis

Friday, June 4, 2010

Some time ago, we posted a small collection of what we later decided to call "terms of vegery." We have just released a book-length version -- called, appropriately enough, Terms of Vegery -- as a Kindle book. The cover looks like this:

And here is a little text and some sample photos from the original posting (which have evolved somewhat during the past two years):

In 1968, James Lipton (yes, that James Lipton) published An Exaltation of Larks, an utterly delightful collection of terms of venery -- that is, the words used to describe groups of animals (such as "a pride of lions," "a gaggle of geese," or "a murder of crows"). He also included a set of what we might call venereal puns, supposedly uttered by several professors upon noticing a group of prostitutes. One called them "a jam of tarts," another, "an essay of Trollope's," another, "an anthology of prose," and yet another, "a flourish of strumpets." Lipton continued in a similar vein -- but such pleasures should be reserved for people who still read actual books.

Putting such illuminating diversions aside, my wife Karen and I were wondering why there are so many collective terms for members of the animal kingdom, yet so few for plants. There are only a few, so we (and various friends and relatives we managed to rope in) set out to even the score a bit.

This was the term that started everything:

A Wreck of Hesperis
(with apologies to Longfellow)

Which was soon followed by:

A Flatulence of Beans

An Eddy of Currants

A Nodding of Elders

A Wrath of Grapes

An Alpert of Herbs

And, finally, in keeping with our rapidly-growing obsession:

A Crime of Passionflowers

 Terms of Vegery has well over 200 color photos, and is best viewed on Kindle Fire, iPad, or any device that can run Amazon's Kindle apps. It will run on smartphones, but the smaller screen sizes may have minor formatting issues.


Anonymous Cynthia Bertelsen said...

Utterly brilliant, Gary!

June 5, 2010 at 5:08 AM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Thanks, Cynthia... but these things just make themselves up. Karen and I were shouting them out faster than Karen could write them down (I was driving... and my handwriting, even when I'm not driving, is unreadable by most humans).

June 5, 2010 at 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

You just made my morning with this post.

Now I feel the need to come up with some of my own.

June 6, 2010 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger The Old Foodie said...

absolutely hilarious Gary; you and Karen have done the English language a great service. I wonder how long it will take them to read the OED?

June 6, 2010 at 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Michael: Send 'em along! If this ever does turn into a book, I'll be glad to appropriate your ideas (and, naturally, claim them as my own).

Janet: "A great service?" If anything, we've merely added to the world's glut of time-wasters.

Oh wait... isn't "glut of time-wasters" another collective noun? Now see what you've done...

June 7, 2010 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I sent a link to the blog on to my pals James and Kedakai Lipton. She was the illustrator of the book which continues to be sold worldwide to this day.
Tony Hitchcock, HITS Horse Shows

June 8, 2010 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Thanks, Tony... I've been a fan of his book since it first came out (I suppose that must have been obvious).

June 8, 2010 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Ken Albala said...

THis is hilarity! THough I'm going to resist the temptation to start doing this myself now!

July 3, 2010 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

It's difficult to stop, once started... despite the pleading looks from those around you to do so.

July 3, 2010 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Padma said...

Thanks - I particularly enjoyed the roberta of Flax, for some reason.

As Hamlet might have mused: aye, there's the shrub.

October 30, 2010 at 4:48 AM  
Blogger Padma said...

You could have called this list Puns & Roses, of course...

October 30, 2010 at 7:10 AM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Well played, Padmavyuha!

October 30, 2010 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Al said...

I might suggest an alternative of "a Vista of Hostas" in the same spirit of pop culture reference that you have given several of the rest.

October 30, 2010 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


How about a horse of radishes?

--Jim Stevenson

October 30, 2010 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

A net of puns?

October 30, 2010 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Flowers were given short shrift, so...

A fire of ashes
A rathbone of basil
An ego of narcissus
A whimper of pines
A blush of pinks
An itch of poison ivy
A touchiness of sensitive plant
A rev-up of speedwell

October 31, 2010 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Al: our first thought was "a la vista of hostas" but I chose "luego" because it was only one word -- but you're right, the cinematic reference is broader than the high school Spanish.

Jim: "a horse of radishes" is sharp and tasty!

Daltona: some of your were addressed in slightly different form (such as "An echo of narcissi," and "A rash of poison ivy") but

"A rathbone of basil" is fantastic.

These are good, and will probably wind up used in similar form
(A whimper of pines, A blush of pinks, A fire of ashes, A rev-up of speedwell).

Something like "A touchiness of sensitive plant" was included in an earlier draft but is still waiting for a touch-up or two.


Needless to say, if any of these ever appear in book form, as contributors you will be acknowledged! Each of you should send the name you would like to be known by to

October 31, 2010 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Apparently, fellow punsters, I cannot include an e-mail address in these comments. If you scroll to the top of the original posts there's a "Contact" tab where you can reach me directly.

October 31, 2010 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

band of brassicas

knowledge of onions

cabinet of leeks

shoe of cabbages

hasness of beans

queue of peas

kith of pumpkin

October 31, 2010 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Julia Miller said...

These are all wonderful. What a great start to my week.
How about a shrink of sensitive plant?

October 31, 2010 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Anyclot: how about a weeping of onions, or a plugging of leeks?

Julia: I'm sure there's something perfect for sensitive plant, but I'm still trying too & not quite there yet...

October 31, 2010 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Maybe "a context of sensitive plants?"

November 1, 2010 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

This is a tricky one, isn't it Anthony? I keep trying things like "a hyper of..." or "an overly of..." or "a photo of...".

Still not there yet.

November 1, 2010 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Julia Miller said...

A few more (though they're not all puns ):
A charlie of Brazil nuts
A haiku of cherry blossoms
A fuzz of peaches
A buttery of parsnips
A herring-box of clementines
A house of oranges
A peep of pecans
A worry of dogwort
A shrink of violets
A ruff/frill of curly endive
An ear of cauliflowers
A rash of nettles

What fun. ABC Classic FM Breakfast in Australia asked for collective nouns for opera singers, but unfortunately I can't find the suggestions on their website. I think there was a chest of dames, and a decolletage of divas, but I can't remember accurately.

November 1, 2010 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger yokohamamama said...

A friend sent me a link to your wonderful blog:)) What an you've discovered! How about:

a Sigh of Wisteria
a Howl of Lupines
a Fiddle of Ferns
a Longing of Pines
a Twist of Lemongrass
a Galaxy of Cosmos
and a great one my friend thought of:
a Calendar of Dates:))
(my mother is hooked now, too)

November 2, 2010 at 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Daz said...

A gathering of moss.
A stool-pigeon of grass.
A trapping of firs.
A golightly of hollies.

I am that friend. Great game indeed!

November 2, 2010 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Julia: I love"A fuzz of peaches," "A house of oranges,and "An ear of cauliflowers." We already have "A rash of Poison Ivy, but how about "A stinging of Nettles?"

yokohamamama: Not bad at all -- but
"A Galaxy of Cosmos" and"A Calendar of Dates" are just fantastic!

Daz: "A gathering of Moss[ses]" and "A golightly of Hollies" are delightful additions to the list.

Please, all of you, e-mail me through the "Contact" tab at the top of the original post -- I'd love to credit all the people who have made such wonderful suggestion (in the event that a book is ever made of all these terms of venery -- or should I say "terms of vegery?"

November 2, 2010 at 10:12 AM  
Blogger Julia Miller said...

What wonderful new additions from Yokohamamama and Daz.
How about a grasp of nettles?

November 2, 2010 at 7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A cesspool of bureaucrats?

November 3, 2010 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Anonymous: Admittedly, some of our bureaucrats are practically vegetables... but that's not the kind we're talking about here.

November 3, 2010 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

The radio show, "A Way with Words," recently featured our collective terms. Google the individual show's title, "A Roberta of Flax" to listen to it.

The show's listeners have contributed many, many more examples via their comments on the website.

December 3, 2010 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger AppleJuiceFool said...

Yeah, I'm late to the party.

A column of rose(s)
A fordamerica of carnations
A kiss of tulips
A tandem of daisies
A crock of buttercups
A shiner of black-eyed susans
A matron of mums
A pupil of irises
A munster of lilies
A hubris of dandelions
A mnemonic of forget-me-nots
An erin of shamrocks

March 25, 2015 at 3:25 AM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Better late than never, AppleJuiceFool!

BTW, we're currently working on a sequel to Terms of Vegery (obviously we are hindered by neither good taste nor ordinary shame).

March 25, 2015 at 8:21 AM  

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