Queen’s English – Shakespeare, the Inventor

April of this year marked the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. This remarkable man in his 52 years left an unmatched legacy. He’s been described as witty, appalling, perplexing, poetic, erotic, and profound.

One more remarkable quality was his ability to create or at least record words and phrases for the first time. According to Louis Bayard in the New York Times, he’s given the credit of coining more than 2,000 words, among them: barefaced, assassination, excellent, frugal, eyeball, auspicious, swagger, zany, summit, moonbeam, obscene, cold-blooded, hot-blooded, epileptic, fashionable, gossip, lonely, grovel, torture, manager, well-read, buzzer, and rant. To be fair not all of these words were created by him, but he was the first to reduce them to print and thereby bring them into the vernacular.

Then there are his phrases which have become routine in our conversations and writings: cold comfort, star-crossed lovers, a pound of flesh, a laughing stock, a wild-goose chase, puckish, it’s Greek to me, clothes make the man, green-eyed monster (referring to jealousy), to thine own self be true, the lady doth protest too much, and give the devil his due.

So many of them seem contemporary. Just imagine English without them!

— Ken Butera

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