As good luck would have it, the English language was blessed with the birth of William Shakespeare some four hundred and forty-eight years ago today (I’ll spare you the math–that’s 1564). I was talking with Jonathan Rogers a while back and we were discussing the wealth of words Shakespeare had invented. I couldn’t recall many examples at the time, but today’s news of the Bard’s birthday sent me looking.
We’re probably all aware that many phrases used in our every day speech are attributed directly to Shakespeare’s plays, but it’s pretty staggering to note just how many of our words appeared in print for the first time in his work. The total is around 1700 by some counts. He certainly didn’t invent all of them, since some were undoubtedly in use on the streets long before being printed in his plays, but one of his many gifts was using words, not only in new and interesting ways, but often in new and interesting forms. If you’re a word geek like me, this kind of stuff is endlessly fascinating. Here’s a tiny sample:
On behalf of the English language, thanks, Will. Happy 448th birthday.