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Shakespeare’s Influence on Modern Language
Shakespeare’s Influence on Modern Language

Shakespeare’s Influence on Modern Language

At Shakespeare-online, Lee Jamieson says in “Shakespeare’s Influence:”
Yes, Shakespeare invented over 1700 of our common words. Please see my About, Inc. site for a list. And yes, he invented many of the most used expressions in our language. Bernard Levin said it best in the following quote about Shakespeare’s impact on our language:

If you cannot understand my argument, and declare “It’s Greek to me”, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise – why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then – to give the devil his due – if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I were dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then – by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness’ sake! what the dickens! but me no buts – it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare. (Bernard Levin. From The Story of English. Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil. Viking: 1986).

Many authors have used phrases from Shakespeare’s works at titles for their own novels. Here is a list of just a few: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; The Dogs of War by Robert Stone; The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck; The Undiscovered Country by Auther Schnitzer; Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury; and Bell, Book, and Candle by John van Druten.
See also Lee Jamieson’s “Common Phrases Invented by Shakespeare” at About.com, where he gives a list of “some of the most popular Shakespeare phrases in common use today” and points out that:
In many cases, it is not known if Shakespeare actually invented these phrases, or if they were already in use during his lifetime. In fact, it is almost impossible to identify when a word or phrase was first used, but Shakespeare’s plays often provide the earliest citation.
Interesting. Shakespeare: Don’t leave your education without it.


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