144 pages, 126 b/w illustrations
We're all familiar with 'a flock of sheep' but what are the collective nouns for racehorses, pigs, zebras or giraffes? Drawing on a range of sources, from fifteenth-century hunting terms to more recent inventions that have now entered the language, A Barrel of Monkeys collects over 100 examples of the most interesting collective nouns for animals, each illustrated with charming woodcuts by the renowned naturalist engraver of the eighteenth century, Thomas Bewick. Some describe a key characteristic of the animal in question: 'a shrewdness of apes', 'a busyness of ferrets'. Others are delightfully humorous: 'a piddle of puppies', 'a crash of rhinoceroses'. Featuring pets, farmyard animals, big cats and wild beasts, this beautifully presented book is the perfect gift for animal lovers and all those with an interest in this quirky linguistic tradition.
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Susie Dent is a writer and broadcaster on language. She is the resident lexicographer on Channel 4's long-running game show, Countdown.