Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Shakespeare's Contribution to the English Language



While William Shakespeare died 388 years ago this week, the English playwright and poet lives on not only through his writings, but through the words and sayings attributed to him that still color the English language today.

So whether you are "fashionable" or "sanctimonious," thank Shakespeare, who likely coined the terms. Many of the Bard's verbal gems have been compiled in books like Michael Macrone'sBrush Up Your Shakespeare,and Coined by Shakespeare by Jeffrey McQuain and Stanley Malless.

Here's an example of the phrase, the world's my oyster and the origin taken
from The Merry Wives Of Windsor Act 2, scene 2, 2–5:

Falstaff:
I will not lend thee a penny.

Pistol:
Why then the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.

Falstaff:
Not a penny.


If you boast that "The world's my oyster" nowadays, you're claiming that the world's riches are yours to leisurely pluck from the shell. The braggart ensign Pistol, however, utters the phrase as a sort of threat—of the aggressively bombastic kind he's known for. Sir John Falstaff, a braggart almost the equal of Pistol, refuses to lend him a penny; Pistol promises to use his sword, if not on Falstaff, then on other helpless victims, to pry open their purses. Pistol's thievish intentions have largely been forgotten, and "The world's my oyster" has become merely a conceited proclamation of opportunity.



Interesting Shakespeare Sites:
Short History of the English Language

Shakespeare Lexicon and Dictionary

Words Coined by Shakespeare are now Common Currency

Do you really think you know Shakespeare?
Take this Quiz and find out!


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