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August 2007 Archives

Collections and collectors: exonumia, cartophily, scriptophily, deltiology, rariora (Wundercammer), ephemera, phillumenist, philography (chirography)

Specific "collective" nouns: kindle, clowder, murmuration, warren, giggle, gaggle, skein

Collections of Writings: Festschrift, gazetteer, onomasticon, prosopography, florilegium, sottise, sottisier, analects (chrestomathy), anthology, corpus

Savory Collectives - E pluribus unum: smorgasbord, farrago, mishmash, olio, olla-podrida, potpourri, salmagundi, hodgepodge


Collections and collectors


This week we'll look at words of the many collecting hobbies folks have. As is our tradition, we begin with a word that also fits last week's theme of AEIOU words.

exonumia – items, as tokens or medals, that resemble money but are not intended to circulate as money
Some sources say that the term was coined (no pun intended) in 1960 by Russ Rulau. OED's first citation is from 1962.


Now exonumia has taken precedence over coins because it is more fun, Miss Stone says. "coins you have to keep locked up in a safe deposit box."
– Arcadia (CA) Tribune, Dec. 1, 1977

Who would have thought that there would be almost 2,000 items available [on eBay] in the Exonumia subcategory? Not us. In fact, we didn't even know what it was until we took a look and found the category full of medals and tokens.
– Neil J. Salkind and Bruce Frey, eBay Online Auction


cartophily – the collection of trade cards
(sometimes defined as "the collection of cigarette cards," which is the largest single category)


… in the 30s cartophily was second only to stamp collecting as a popular hobby …
- Birmingham (AL) Post, Apr. 24, 2002

The bequest of over one million cigarette and other trade cards by Edward Wharton-Tigar (1913-95) has given the [British] Museum the world's definitive collection. … Edward Wharton-Tigar, the world's greatest cartophilist, began collecting at the age of seven in 1920. … 'Trade cards' comprise cards of all types distributed by commercial organizations as inducements to the general public to buy their wares. The largest single group of such cards was issued by cigarette manufacturers, but almost every other trade was involved to some degree.
- Marjori Caygill, The British Museum A-Z Companion


scriptophily – the collecting by hobbyists of old stock certificates and bonds of defunct companies, that have no intrinsic value other than their aesthetic appeal or relative rarity

Several quotes today, explaining the market.


An 1870 certificate for original shares of the Standard Oil Co., signed by John D. Rockefeller, was hammered down for $120,000. A second, for the Pullman Palace Car Co., maker of the first sleeping cars for trains, and bearing the signature of Andrew Carnegie …, fetched $70,000. … scripophily … is a relatively new pursuit … Those who indulge in it find it an addictive combination of financial history, aesthetics, and personal interests. Germans have long been the most avid collectors, and the British are enthusiasts as well, but dealers and auctioneers report that Americans are coming.
- International Herald Tribune, July 8, 2000

"… the trend is toward the elimination of the paper stock certificate," says Kerstein. While the supply of new certificates reaching the collector market is dwindling, the hobby of scripophily continues to grow.
-, Sept. 18, 2006

There were many bubbles that came and went. The mining boom in the 1850's, the railroad build out beginning in the 1830's, Oil Boom beginning in the 1870's, [Wordcrafter: hereafter, I abbreviate] Telegraph 1850's, Automobile Industry at the turn of the 20th century, Aviation around 1910 after the Wright Brothers, Electric Power 1930's, Airline Wars and Takeovers 1970's, Cellular Telephones mid 1980's, Banks 1930's, Saving's and Loans 1970's, Long Distance Telephone Service 1990's, and most recently the Dot Com rags to riches to rags chapter. … Most of the companies, however, never made it and the certificates became worthless pieces of paper ... until the hobby of Scripophily came along! [sic; apostrophes as in the original]
- David Breskin, Supermodel


deltiology – the collection of postcards
[from Greek for a small writing tablet]


I will never forget the first vintage postcard I ever bought. It was at a Bangor-area flea market and showed the old Bangor City Hall, one of many hundreds of landmarks from my hometown which are not with us anymore. The date was 1972. I was a 20-year-old college student, and my newfound hobby of deltiology was born. The card, by the way, cost the princely sum of 25’.
– Richard R. Shaw, Bangor in Vintage Postcards

This book is dedicated to my wife, Shirley L. Heckman, who wonders whether deltiology is a hobby or a disease.
– Marlin L. Heckman, Santa Barbara American Riviera Postcards


rariora – rare collectors'-items


Fruits and flowers were presented and illustrated in brand new linguistic and figurative terms as precious collectors’ items forming part of sophisticated natural collections, almost the rariora of modern vegetable `Wunderkammern'.
– John Dixon Hunt, The Italian Garden: Art, Design and Culture


Bonus word:
– a chamber or cabinet of wonders; spec. a place exhibiting the collection of a connoisseur of curiosities, such as became common from the late Renaissance onwards


ephemera – items of short-lived interest or usefulness, especially those that later acquire value to collectors
[Greek, 'things lasting only a day'. Think of such collectibles as ticket stubs or programs from a World's Fair or other big event.]

We illustrate both the general use and the collectors' use.


But today's newspaper is lining tomorrow's bird cage. It's ephemera.
– Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, The Cabinet of Curiosities

The Quigley Collection, recently donated, is over two thousand pieces of Victorian ephemera, mostly having to do with soap.
– Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife


phillumenist – a collector of matchbox or matchbook labels


     Remember that scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" where Cary Grant, standing by the villain's second-floor railing, writes a warning inside a matchbook's cover and then tosses it to the living room below in hopes that Eva Marie Saint will spy it? I'll bet phillumenists everywhere would love to add that little bit of ephemera to their collections!
     Labels and covers have borne manufacturers' logos from their inceptions, but in 1894/5 an ad for Piso's cough medicine appeared on a matchcover, creating advertising history. Since then, just about every organization, business, political party, resort and cause has used the medium of matchbook advertising to reach untold millions of consumers.
     The rarest known cover is a single survivor of 100 handprinted copies issued by the Mendelson Opera Company in 1896. Presently owned by the Franklin Mint, its estimated value is in excess of $25,000.
–, Oct. 24, 2004


philography – the collecting of autographs, esp. those of famous persons
Today's quotes concern autograph forgery.


But James Dean is one of those rare stars who never go out of style. His enduring popularity and the scarcity of his signature keep Dean at the top of many philographer's most wanted lists. Because Dean's autograph is notoriously rare, it has frequently been forged.
– Joe Bills, James Dean Collectors Guide

In the spring of 1976 an unemployed grocery clerk in Rumford, Maine began peppering the nation with forged signatures of celebrities. .. The forger, Arthur Sutton, a perky young man, was not new to the game of the name. He had been quietly turning out forgeries for three years and had honed his chirographic skills to the point where not even Richard Nixon could tell his own signature from Sutton's imitation. No wonder philographers eagerly bought up every scratch out of Rumford. [Several pages later:] It is the forgeries and fakes that give piquancy and excitement to the chase. Without them philography would be a pretty dull pursuit.
– Charles Hamilton, Great Forgers and Famous Fakes: The Manuscript Forgers of America and How They Duped the Experts


Bonus word:
– handwriting; penmanship
A previous word-of-the-day; see here.



Specific "collective" nouns


Spinning off from our collector-topic: You might speak of a certain collection of animals as a herd of buffalo, a flock of starlings or other birds, or a school of fish. You'd never refer to a flock of buffalo, a school of birds, or a herd of fish.

My point? Many collective terms are used only for certain animals, not for all. It's fun to invent new, specific collective terms. (For example, if streetwalkers are trolling the avenue for customers, they might be called a flourish of strumpets.)

This week we'll at some of the many that our language already has. Many such "group words" (particularly for animals which were more familiar centuries ago) are now almost forgotten, and perhaps were never were much known. Some of them are just linguistic curiosities (I mean, how often will you have occasion to refer to a cete of badgers or a nide of pheasants?), but we'll try to focus on terms you could actually us, for things you encounter in your day to day life.

kindle – a group of kittens
[kindle (verb) – of a female animal: to give birth to young]


I am convalescing. I have been sick with a virus, a strange influenza that has left me as weak as a kindle of kittens.
– Kate Atkinson, Emotionally Weird

… I put in a call to the local shelter. … But the shelter was full; there was a great number of cats and many kittens waiting for adoption. "There's no room at the inn," the manager said. "Yours is actually the... fourth call this week from someone who has found a kindle of kittens abandoned somewhere. I can't understand how people can be so cruel or why they are so irresponsible in the first place."
– Kaetheryn Walker, Homeopathic First Aid for Animals: Tales and Techniques from a Country Practitioner


As long as we were talking about kittens, what about cats?

clowder – a group or cluster of cats
[cognate with cluster, clutter, clot, coagulate, and to some degree with clatter – but apparently not with coagulate]


Nothing but a few stray rats and ground squirrels, and the half dozen stray cats that had taken up residence some days before, following the quakes, a clowder of thin, wild beasts so fearful they would run from a bird shadow swooping overhead.
– Shirley Rousseau Murphy, Cat To The Dogs: A Joe Grey Mystery

… a number of sooty tenements pressed four and five storeys upwards. A clowder of scrawny cats was busy in a heap of fishbones …
– Ross King, Ex-Libris


murmuration – a flock (of starlings)
OED is skeptical of whether purported words of this sort, found in old word-lists, were truly "real" words at the time. It says of murmuration: "One of many alleged group terms found in late Middle English glossarial sources, but not otherwise substantiated. Revived and popularized in the 20th cent."


The new owners watched as a murmuration of starlings swooped and chattered in the fading sky …
– Eric Hodgins and William Steig, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1946; presumably the basis for the movie of the same title)


In my college years, I once lived in a dorm whose ivy-covered walls were infested with starlings. Anyone who's had to live near the constant noise of a starling gathering-place will know how annoying these *#&! birds are.


warren – a colony of rabbits (also, an overcrowded or maze-like area)


My e-mail is kind of like a warren of rabbits. When I return from an adventure, I find it has been breeding.
– San Francisco Chronicle, June 6, 2002

Deep in the heart of the Bell Institute, in the bowels of the laboratory, you come to a warren of windowless rooms called, rather grandly, the Institute of Cereal Technology.
– Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals


giggle – a group of girls or other silly females
[I would think of this as a metaphor, but OED accepts it as a word, originating in 1942: "He had picked her out of the whole giggle of Society dιbutantes."]


The scene was the White House flower garden, crowded with a giggle of presidential secretaries …
– Time Magazine, Nov. 8, 1963

[in an impoverished rural area] A giggle of girls jostles to glimpse the intimations of instant immortality provided by a visitor's digital camera.
– Times of India, Feb. 4, 2005


gaggle – a flock (of geese); also derisively, a company (of women)
[OED says, "One of the many artificial terms invented in the 15th c. as distinctive collectives referring to particular animals or classes of persons; but unlike most of the others, it seems to have been actually adopted in use."]
[Some say a gaggle of geese is a flock awkward on the ground, but not one in graceful flight. But contrast second quote. Also, in actual usage "gaggle" is far more often used to mean "any disorderly crowd", not necessarily geese.]


… a gaggle of greedy journalists, of whom I was one.
– New Scientist, Dec. 25, 1999

A French pilot who has taught a gaggle of orphaned geese to follow his microlight aircraft will be the star attraction at an air show this weekend. French environmentalist Christian Moullec spent the past 10 years training the geese to look on his aircraft as their parent. The gaggle will fly at the Sywell air and music show in Northants to the sounds of a piano concerto by Mozart.
– BBC News, June 23, 2006


skein – a flight of wild fowl
[from the main and earlier sense of "a quantity of thread or yarn, wound to a certain length upon a reel"]


When a skein of geese flies over my neighborhood, I celebrate that these symbols of wildness still grace my city …
– Seattle Times, July 17, 2005



Collections of Writings


We've had a theme of "Types of hobbyist collectors". We've had a theme of "Specific Collective Nouns".

Think I'm done with "collecting"? Of course not. This week we'll talk about various types of collected writings.

Festschrift – a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar
[German, Fest 'celebration' + Schrift 'writing']


I wrote an introduction to a collection of short stories by Budd Schulberg, too, and a long salutation for a Festschrift presented to Erskine Caldwell on his eightieth birthday.
– Kurt Vonnegut, Fates Worse Than Death


gazetteer – a geographical index or dictionary


Indeed, gazetteers in America, it was said, could not keep up with the "very frequent changes" in the dividing of territories and naming of places "which are almost daily taking place": it was a problem "peculiar to a new, progressive and extensive country." In one generation Americans occupied more territory than they had occupied during the entire 150 years of their colonial existence. "We are a rapidly – I was about to say fearfully – growing country," said John C. Calhoun in 1816. "This is our pride and danger, our weakness and our strength."
– Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution


Apparently the bible-scholars have a special word meaning "gazetteer" (see first quote), although the dictionaries define it differently. And that word led me to still another.

onomasticon – 1. a list or collection of proper names 2. a list or collection of specialized terms, as those used in a particular field or subject area


Eusebius also prepared an Onomasticon, or gazetteer of biblical sites, in which every place named in the Bible is described.
– Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past & Present

She describes it as "both an onomasticon and a prosopography." It is an onomasticon in as far as it is a collection of all the recorded names used by the Jews of Palestine [in the period 330BCE-200CE] .... It is a prosopography in as far as it collects not just the names but also the people who bore the names. In this respect it bears the character of a modern telephone book.
– Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony


prosopography – a study that identifies and relates a group of persons or characters within a particular historical or literary context


Today's word has a lovely source. It comes to us from Latin florilegus, gathering flowers.

florilegium (pl. florilegia) – a collection of excerpts from written texts, especially works of literature


None of Cicero's speeches were [sic] known except indirectly; his philosophical works were familiar to medieval readers only in the form of extracts in florilegia; and no one had even suspected that a large body of Cicero's correspondence to his friends was still extant.
– Thomas M. Conley, Rhetoric in the European Tradition

Of all the books I have delivered to the printer, none, I think, is as personal as this unruly jumble, this florilegium, for the simple reason that it is rich in reflections and interpolations.
– Jorge Luis Borges, The Maker (Epilogue), as collected in Borges and A. Coleman, Selected Poems by Jorge Luis Borges


sottise – a silly remark or saying; a foolish action [from French]
sottisier – a collection of sottises, esp. a list of written stupidities


Any recorder . of these events must be tempted to compile a vast sottisier of misjudgments made by his compatriots and others in the West.
– Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment


Two words today. The first fits this theme far too well to leave out. But since it has been used as a word-of-the-day before, I just refer you to the previous presentation of chrestomathy. As to today's second word:

analects – selected miscellaneous written passages (often used as a title)

Or in more poetic language of OED: "literary gleanings; collections of fragments or extracts". One smiles to note an older, obsolete meaning in OED: "crumbs that fall from the table; pickings up, gleanings".

Anyhow, the above is what the dictionaries say. But the vast majority of the actual usage is as a title -- mostly a specific title, The Analects of Confucius The few times "analects" is used as a freestanding word (even by such as author as Dos Passos), it seems to mean "short, pithy statements, full of meaning, in the style of an oriental sage's maxim.


"Your enemies will destroy you while you sit perorating about your high-minded ideals!" Chao interjected. … "Some of those who oppose me are men and women of principle," Liu Ang said, without raising his voice. "When they see that they have been in error, their opposition will subside." … "You mistake a knife fight for an exchange of analects!" Chao countered. "There are powerful men ..."
– Robert Ludlum, The Ambler Warning

Dos Passos ... read Steinbeck's analects in the session when he was called on, following an introduction in which he said, "While [Steinbeck] was in what might be called his delirium, he wrote some analects which he thought might be amusing to read:" ...
     "The difference between a congress and a dogfight is that a dogfight has rules."
     "Confusion is the child of speech. Silence has never produced misinformation."
     "Force is the persuasion of failure."
     "... ideas have neither nationality or race."
– Stephen K. George, John Steinbeck: A Centennial Tribute


We recently saw a word, florilegium, that comes from the Latin for "flower gathering". Today's word comes from the Greek for "flower gathering" (anthos flower + logia collecting). How appropriate to illustrate it with a quote that refers to a garden. But not the sort of garden you are expecting.

anthology – a collection of literary pieces, such as poems, short stories, plays


From Neil Strauss, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup ArtistsΉ
I ordered books on body language, flirting, and sexual technique. I read anthologies of women's sexual fantasies, like Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden, in order to internalize the idea that women actually want sex as much as -- if not more than – men;² they just don't want to be pressured, lied to, or made to feel like a slut.


ΉAny prude who thinks I hunted for a salacious quote should note that this was the top hit in one of my standard quote-sources.
²Query: Did the author create an interesting ambiguity by saying "than … men;" (rather than "than … men do;")?
P.S.: Have you ever before seen a sentence which, like the last one, has four punctuation marks in a row?


corpus – a large collection of writings of a particular kind or on a particular subject; esp., the complete works of an author (also other meanings)
[Latin, 'body'; plural is corpora or corpuses]


Buddha taught for forty-five years, and a staggering corpus has come down to us in one form or another.
– Huston Smith, The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions



Savory Collectives - E pluribus unum


Think I'm done with "collections" yet? Think again.

Anyone who's dealt with leftovers knows that cookery is often the art of combining whatever's available. (For example, we've seen mulligan stew – a stew made with whatever's available.) This week we'll look at creations from the kitchen whose names have come to mean, more generally, a diverse collection.

smorgasbord – 1. a buffet meal featuring a variety of dishes. 2. a varied collection
[Swedish smφrgεs bread with butter (smφr butter); open sandwich + bord table. Note: The word implies (though the dictionaries fail to note this) a varied collection from which one can select.]

Our last illustrative quote concerned female sexual fantasies. Here's another one.


But what held her attention most was the high concentration of handsome men working in the bar. They were everywhere. The bartenders the waiters, the bouncers … She'd never seen anything like this. It was a testosterone smorgasbord. Elise leaned over to whisper in her ear, "I think I might have died and gone to heaven. Have you ever seen so many gorgeous men in your life?"
– Sherrilyn Kenyon, Unleash the Night


Two words that relate to food for animals, not for people.

farrago – a confused mixture [Latin farrago mix of grains for animal feed, from far corn]
Wordcrafter note: farrago seems to mostly used not just for any mixture, but specifically for a jumble of arguments that is seemingly sensible but in fact "elaborate nonsense".


The accepted position seemed to be that religions were normally a mere farrago of nonsense, though our own, by a fortunate exception, was exactly true.
– C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

"Sir," I replied, turning to him, "what your motive can be in reciting to me with a serious face this remarkable farrago, I am utterly unable to guess, but you are surely yourself too intelligent to suppose that anybody but an imbecile could be deceived by it. Spare me any more of this elaborate nonsense …"
– Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward


mishmash – a confused mixture
[reduplication of Yiddish mishn to mix, or of English mash – 1. mixed ground grain fed to livestock and fowl 2. a soft pulpy mixture or mass]


The crowd is a mishmash of tourists and NYU [New York University] students from Utah and gay guys--the balding, married ones from the Island—and they all went shopping on Eighth Street. It's not an attractive crowd.
– Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, The Nanny Diaries


Crossword-puzzle writers find this four-letter word useful!

olio – 1. a highly seasoned stew of meat, vegetables, and chickpeas 2. a miscellaneous mixture
[With the same two meanings is olla-podrida, from Spanish; literally rotten pot.]


As I'm a person, I am in a very chaos to think I should so forget myself: but I have such an olio of affairs, really I know not what to do.
– William Congreve, The Way of the World (Lady Wishfort speaking) in The Oxford Anthology of English Literature

"There are several options for the evening," he said. "I called Chick Jacoby, and we can get a table at Clarence's. Or we can go around the corner and see the new Woody Allen movie. Or we can go to the Martin Lesky's who are having a party with a lot of movie stars."
     "A veritable olio," she replied.
– Dominick Dunne People Like Us


Recall that yesterday we saw olla-podrida, which literally is Spanish for rotten pot.

The French borrowed this term, changing it to their words for "rotten" and pot" (Such a change is called a loan translation. French for "to rot" is pourrir, the same root as in putrescent.) and from French the changed word passed into English. It originally meant "different kinds of meat cooked together in a stew," but new meanings evolved, as the originally meaning became extinct.

potpourri – 1. a combination of incongruous things 2. a miscellaneous anthology or collection (as of stories or music) 3. mixed of dried flower petals and spices used to scent the air


The Talmud is a wonderful book, a great, big potpourri of things: trivial questions, and difficult questions – for example, problems of teachers, and how to teach – and then some trivia again, and so on.
– Richard P. Feynman and Ralph Leighton, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)

Their mission statements become a potpourri of platitudes …
– Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill, First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy

Note: OED spells this as a hyphenated word, pot-pourri, but most dictionaries use the no-hyphen spelling I've given, potpourri.


salmagundi – 1. a miscellaneous collection or mixture 2. original sense: a dish of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions with oil and condiments


… the Court has been "carpet bombed" with a rash of legal memoranda, over two hundred exhibits, myriad deposition, with separately filed excerpts and highlights from those same depositions, and a salmagundi of other documents.
– U.S. Dist. Court of Delaware, Moore Corp. v Wallace Computer Services, Dec. 4, 1995, as quoted in Keith M. Moore, Risk Arbitrage: An Investor's Guide


hodgepodge (N. Amer.) or hotchpotch – a confused mixture
[from Old French hochepot stew, soup (hocher to shake + pot pot)]

A quote from today’s paper:


July's crash, the deadliest in Brazilian history, followed an accident in September last year that killed 154 people. Sensing a collapse in the hodgepodge of public agencies charged with overseeing air safety, [Brazil’s] mayors, judges and members of Congress are stepping in to impose new aviation-security measures.