The other day, standing in the basement, I was leafing through one of the books we gave our children when they were still in elementary school. It happened to be a short illustrated biography of William Shakespeare. In a section at the back, I was astounded to learn how many of today's words and expressions were invented by the famous Elizabethan playwright, and how many are still in use today.
One expression that immediately jumped off the page is quite familiar to us and is applicable to the current global economic situation. That expression? "Sea change." We've heard it used in speeches and in the news to describe a profound transformation. The phrase is first spoken by Ariel in The Tempest:
"Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange."
Scholars believe about 1,700 words and expressions were invented by our friend, William. I find the list fascinating. Here's a sample:
every inch a king
too much of a good thing
for goodness' sake
to thine own self be true
in my mind's eye
in my heart of hearts
eaten me out of house and home
The list goes on and on.
Shakespeare also invented words to imitate the sounds of actions. And here are three examples that are in current use:
Almost four hundred years have passed since Shakespeare's death, and yet these phrases make him sound so modern! It must be one of the reasons behind his enduring appeal.
"Here we sit,
and let the sounds of music
creep in our ears."
(The Merchant of Venice, V. 1)
For more information about the words and expressions invented by the Bard, take a look at this page at "No Sweat Shakespeare."
Original source of information for this post was William Shakespeare and the Globe, written and illustrated by Aliki Brandenberg, 1999, New York, Harper Collins and Scholastic Books.
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