• romeo: hey i just met you.
  • romeo: and this is crazy.
  • romeo: but i saw you at your dad's party that i wasn't supposed to attend and i thought you were pretty cute so i followed you and we kissed but then your nanny called you away and i found out you were a capulet and got bummed so i sneaked into your back yard in the middle of the night and climbed your balcony uninvited to profess my undying love after an hour even though i wanted to bone rosaline like two scenes ago.
  • romeo: so marry me maybe.

Laughter

Where it’s found: The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene I

How it’s used:

SALARINO: Now, by two-headed Janus,
Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes
And laugh like parrots at a bag-piper,
And other of such vinegar aspect
That they’ll not show their teeth in way of smile,
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.

Where it comes from: I find it very… laughable that one of Shakespeare’s problem plays coined the term laughable. (What, you don’t come here for my incredibly lame puns? I am agog, aghast, and other sorts of fancy words!)

With that out of the way, laughable is a compound, made up of two parts: laugh and the prefix -able.

Laugh is Old English, and was originally onomatopoetic. The Anglo-Saxon word for laugh was hlæhhan. This is related to a number of other Germanic words that look like someone just hit their keyboard in an attempt to coin a word. The pronunciation was originally lack, but here we are with our yuck-yuck word laff. [source]

-able, on the other hand, came to us from the Romans; Latin had two suffixes for words that meant “a capacity to do,” -ibilis and -abilis. Interestingly enough, in English native words get tagged with the suffix -able (hence, laughable), while more obviously Latin words get stuck with -ible (e.g., horrible, crucible, etc.) [source]

Eventful

Where it’s found: As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

How it’s used:

JACQUES: Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Where it comes from: This particular monologue is also where English gained the word puking. It’s a favorite of mine, and probably one of Shakespeare’s most famous.

Eventful was definitively a Shakespeare word; there’s no record of it being used other than in As You Like It until it cropped up in the dictionary. It comes from two words (obviously), event and the suffix -ful.

Event meandered its way into English from Middle French and Latin, where the word was eventus. It meant “an occurrence or accident” but also “fortune” and “fate.” It’s a stem of the word evenire, “to come out, happen, or result,” which is also the root of the word venue. [source]

The suffix -ful is, surprisingly or not, derived from the word full. It’s Old English, where it meant “completely, perfect, entire, utter,” and also “full.” It’s Indo-European roots also means the word is related to the word plenary. [source]

Worthless

Where it’s found: Henry VI, Part 3, Act I, Scene I

How it’s used:

CLIFFORD: Urge it no more; lest that, instead of words,
I send thee, Warwick, such a messenger
As shall revenge his death before I stir.

WARWICK: Poor Clifford! how I scorn his worthless threats!

Where it comes from: Despite some scholar’s opinions on Henry VI (not the most interesting of Shakespeare’s plays), it’s certainly not a worthless play, because it gave us… well, the word worthless.

I’ve actually covered the origins of both parts of this word before. Worthless is made up of two parts (bonus points if you can guess what they are), so this will mostly just be review. But here we are anyway:

Worth comes from the other granddaddy of English, Anglo-Saxon. They had a word, weorð, which meant “equal in value to.” It’s (probably) descended from an Indo-European form that is also the root of the word versus. [source]

[Less] means lacking, and it comes from Old English -leas. Other Germanic languages have similar terms (-loos in Dutch, -los in German, etc.) [source]

Review day is review day. And also Tuesday.

Launder

Where it’s found: “A Lover’s Complaint”

How it’s used:

Oft did she heave her napkin to her eyne,
Which on it had conceited characters,
Laundering the silken figures in the brine
That season’d woe had pelleted in tears,
And often reading what contents it bears;
As often shrieking undistinguish’d woe,
In clamours of all size, both high and low.

Where it comes from: I’ve covered a lot of Shakespeare’s plays on this blog, but never his poetry. Fortunately, he was just as prolific in his poems as he was in his scripts, and so we have our first example from a poem: launder.

Launder is actually a contraction of the word lavender, which in French (as lavandier) meant “washer” and not the flower. The French stole the word from Latin, lavandria, ultimately coming from the word lavare, “to wash.” So the word launder is related to the word lave. The sense of “money laundering” didn’t arise until the 1960s. [source]

"The drop of ink Shakespeare quilled to write the word starling blotted out the sky of a continent he never visited."

Stephen Marche, How Shakespeare Changed Everything

This is in regards to the rather ill-considered attempt by Eugene Schieffelin to bring every bird mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare to the United States. Notoriously, the sixty starlings he introduced in 1891 ballooned to a population of over 200 million by today.

Tags: Shakespeare

"Most scholars agree that [Shakespeare] coined somewhere in the vicinity of seventeen hundred words — far more than any other writer in any language. It’s an even more astonishing feat when you consider that nearly 10 percent of Shakespeare’s vocabulary of twenty thousand terms was new to him and to his audience. In a sense, he’s easier to understand now, because we are familiar with words like farmhouse and eyeball and softhearted and watchdog. We’ve lost an entire dimension of the original Shakespeare experience. Imagine going to a new play and hearing for the first time sanctimonious or lackluster or fashionable. That freshness is lost to our ears."

Stephen Marche, How Shakespeare Changed Everything

I’ve covered the origins of some of those words before.

Tags: Shakespeare

Freezing

Where it’s found: Cymbeline, Act III, Scene III

How it’s used:

ARVIRAGUS: What should we speak of
When we are old as you? when we shall hear
The rain and wind beat dark December, how,
In this our pinching cave, shall we discourse
The freezing hours away?

Where it comes from: It’s cold out today where I am, despite the fact that it’s almost May, so this feels like an appropriate Shakespeare Word of the Day.

So. Freezing. It’s Old English, and it comes from the word freosan, which meant “turn to ice.” Like most Old English words, it has cousins in other Germanic languages, ultimately going all the way back to proto-Indo-European. The root for freezing is, weirdly enough, used in some languages for the word “to burn.” So while Sanskrit and Latin had words like prusva and pruina for “hoarfrost,” they had very similar words for burning things. (Sanskrit had prustah for “burnt,” and Latin had pruna, for “a live coal.”) [source]

An unorthodox post for today, but whatever. You all follow me anyway, and I want to tell a story.
Today is, at the very least, the day William Shakespeare died. Historians don’t know exactly what day he was born, but they do know he was baptized on April 26, 1564. Back in the 16th century, babies were generally baptized three days after birth, so they like to say Shakespeare was born on April 23 as well. A fit of cosmic tidiness. (Of course, this is to say nothing of the troublesome switch from Julian to Gregorian calendars. That messed all sorts of dates up.)
In 2010, I studied abroad at the University of Cambridge through their fantastic international scholars program. The lovely people at Cambridge were kind enough to set up day trips throughout the month we stayed there, and one of the last trips they organized was a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, to seeAs You Like It. I signed up for that right away, mostly for the chance to see Shakespeare’s grave and hometown.
It’s kind of a tourist trap, if the British Isles have those. I’ve been to American tourist traps far and wide, and I was a little stunned to see how kitschy everything was. For nominal fees you could visit cottages where people with only vague connections to Shakespeare were born — everyone tried to eke out a living from him. But one of the most startling things about Stratford-upon-Avon was how conscious they were of Shakespeare; he waseverywhere, from a bust on the bank to the statues in the park to the names of ice cream sold at the stores. He’s the patron saint of Stratford-upon-Avon, and he didn’t even have to go to the trouble of canonization.
He’s buried at the Holy Trinity Church, an ancient and crumbling Anglican church nestled away from the touristy parts of the city. When you reach the church you’re greeted first by its cemetery, a crumbling, moss-infested affair. My hometown was founded in the 1850s, centuries after the first person was laid to rest at the Holy Trinity Church. It exudes an oldness that the New World just can’t compare to.
Inside, the church looks not unlike the Catholic one I grew up attending. There are great stained glass windows and stone floors and walls that leave everything feeling chilled, even in the middle of July. The Shakespeare clan isn’t interred in the main chamber, they’re all in a little chapel off to the side.
Standing above the grave of Shakespeare is a bust — one of the very few portrayals of Shakespeare done by someone who actually knew what he looked like, and one approved of by the family. Unfortunately, in between Shakespeare’s death and today, someone thought it would be a better idea to whitewash it, and then it was painted over by someone who probably never saw an Englishman in his life. So that’s a bit of a… bust. (GET IT?)
But the grave itself is still there. In the centuries since Shakespeare died, the inscription on the flagstone has faded, but the helpful people at Holy Trinity Church keep a likeness of the inscription propped up against the grave. In the curious writing of 17th century English, it reads:

Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forebearTo dig the dust enclosed hereBlessed be the man that spares these stonesAnd cursed be he that moves my bones

Always someone with a flair for words, that Bill.
When I saw the grave, I took a moment to thank him. My two greatest artistic passions in this world, writing and acting, converge neatly with Shakespeare’s canon. I’m most proud of the two Shakespearean productions I was a part of; one of my novels is, at least in part, inspired byThe Tempest. I am a different person for Shakespeare, and I wanted to let him, or at least the dust that had been his bones, know that.
So happy birthday, Mr. Shakespeare.

An unorthodox post for today, but whatever. You all follow me anyway, and I want to tell a story.

Today is, at the very least, the day William Shakespeare died. Historians don’t know exactly what day he was born, but they do know he was baptized on April 26, 1564. Back in the 16th century, babies were generally baptized three days after birth, so they like to say Shakespeare was born on April 23 as well. A fit of cosmic tidiness. (Of course, this is to say nothing of the troublesome switch from Julian to Gregorian calendars. That messed all sorts of dates up.)

In 2010, I studied abroad at the University of Cambridge through their fantastic international scholars program. The lovely people at Cambridge were kind enough to set up day trips throughout the month we stayed there, and one of the last trips they organized was a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, to seeAs You Like It. I signed up for that right away, mostly for the chance to see Shakespeare’s grave and hometown.

It’s kind of a tourist trap, if the British Isles have those. I’ve been to American tourist traps far and wide, and I was a little stunned to see how kitschy everything was. For nominal fees you could visit cottages where people with only vague connections to Shakespeare were born — everyone tried to eke out a living from him. But one of the most startling things about Stratford-upon-Avon was how conscious they were of Shakespeare; he waseverywhere, from a bust on the bank to the statues in the park to the names of ice cream sold at the stores. He’s the patron saint of Stratford-upon-Avon, and he didn’t even have to go to the trouble of canonization.

He’s buried at the Holy Trinity Church, an ancient and crumbling Anglican church nestled away from the touristy parts of the city. When you reach the church you’re greeted first by its cemetery, a crumbling, moss-infested affair. My hometown was founded in the 1850s, centuries after the first person was laid to rest at the Holy Trinity Church. It exudes an oldness that the New World just can’t compare to.

Inside, the church looks not unlike the Catholic one I grew up attending. There are great stained glass windows and stone floors and walls that leave everything feeling chilled, even in the middle of July. The Shakespeare clan isn’t interred in the main chamber, they’re all in a little chapel off to the side.

Standing above the grave of Shakespeare is a bust — one of the very few portrayals of Shakespeare done by someone who actually knew what he looked like, and one approved of by the family. Unfortunately, in between Shakespeare’s death and today, someone thought it would be a better idea to whitewash it, and then it was painted over by someone who probably never saw an Englishman in his life. So that’s a bit of a… bust. (GET IT?)

But the grave itself is still there. In the centuries since Shakespeare died, the inscription on the flagstone has faded, but the helpful people at Holy Trinity Church keep a likeness of the inscription propped up against the grave. In the curious writing of 17th century English, it reads:

Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forebear
To dig the dust enclosed here
Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And cursed be he that moves my bones

Always someone with a flair for words, that Bill.

When I saw the grave, I took a moment to thank him. My two greatest artistic passions in this world, writing and acting, converge neatly with Shakespeare’s canon. I’m most proud of the two Shakespearean productions I was a part of; one of my novels is, at least in part, inspired byThe Tempest. I am a different person for Shakespeare, and I wanted to let him, or at least the dust that had been his bones, know that.

So happy birthday, Mr. Shakespeare.

Educate

Where it’s found: Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act V, Scene I

How it’s used:

ADRIANO DE ARMADO: Arts-man, preambulate, we will be singled from the
barbarous. Do you not educate youth at the
charge-house on the top of the mountain?

Where it comes from: Shakespeare borrowed educate (which seems relevant given my reasons for not posting much over the next two weeks) from Latin. It’s initial meaning, beyond a formal sort of training, was “to bring up children.” It’s root word is educere, meaning “bring out” or “lead forth.”

Interestingly enough, educate is a cousin of the word duke; ducere in Latin means “to lead.” [source]