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  • FMH

    I must say that I have my doubts here. Shakespeare might have coined some of these expressions, but many of them where probably allready around and used at his time. Take “hot blooded” for example. I think it’s safe to say that this is not Shakespeares invention – it’s a phrase from ancient medicine, where people believed that the temperature of the humors played a role in the expression of one’s character.
    Nobody would have understood Shakespeare well if he would have made up all the expressions people claim he did, he was bound to use the language of his time.

    • Matt

      Shakespeare revolutionized the English language he’s known for creating at least a few dozen new words that we use today if the author says they were coined by Shakespeare and my knowledge of 9th grade English I’d put my money on the author being right

      • FMH

        I have heard that, too. But still, without having done research myself, I doubt it. If he had changed so much about the language and made up many new words, his plays would have sounded strange to conteporary people and probably wouldn’t have gained a lot of popularity. I can understand that he made up and popularized many phrases still used today – but many of those claims (like “hot blooded” or “night-owl”) either seem to come for classic greek literature (which would make it possible, that Shakespeare popularized them in English) or from everyday language that might have been used in other written documents.
        My guess is, that many of his alledged inventions are details of his contemporary language, that just not represented in other written documents.
        I think I have to do some research on that.

        • I see your point, but I tend to think of these phrases or expressions more like an SNL catch phrase. We hadn’t heard those before, but given the context in which they were used we understand their meaning; and because of the cleverness of those new expressions they certainly had no problem catching on. Of course, you may be correct and we may never know for sure. We can assume even if Shakespeare did not create all of these phrases, he surely had a hand in popularizing them.

        • Resi

          If you haven’t done the research, you have no right to doubt. Why even state your doubt if it is entirely unfounded?

      • FMH

        The word “assassination” is a good example for it. If the word was new to you, it would be impossible to understand. If Shakespeare had been the first one to import this word into English, he would have lost his audience there. So this word must have been known to the people of his time before he used it.

    • Shakespeare was an incredibly strong poet, and many phrases that I didn’t include in this list were either not popular or hadn’t been heard of in the vernacular at the time he used them. Very few of them are complex, and many of them do draw on phrases that were popular at the time. The point of this list is to show phrases that WE use that HE popularized, and it just so happens that many of them are attributed to his invention.

      Hot-blooded is, in fact, from him, as temperature of the blood was not usually a concern to to doctors when it came to the four humors. The humors related to the content of the blood, not how hot or cold the blood actually was. Maybe you’re confusing with the word temperature with temperaments, which ancient doctors did believe controlled a person’s personality.

      Also these people deserve some credit. Just like us, they were able to pick up context clues from other dialogue and the actors when they came across a word no one knew, and were able to figure it out. I come across words that I don’t know and could be made up, but I can generally figure out some general meaning on my own. Humans are cool like that.

      • FMH

        I’m not saying that people would have been left completely puzzeled if he made up new words, surely they could have guessed the meaning from the context. But they surely would have accepted this as little as we tolerate a science fiction author creating leaving a trail of non-sensical technobabble in his works. The words he allegedly made up must have existed in some way to be known and accepted by the public, even if he used them in a different way. Importing them form another language, for example, like “assassination”, is a way that he made up new words, that I completely accept, since a high-born public could be expected to understand them.

        True, in the traditional humors lore, the temperature of the blood didn’t play a role. I’m sorry I mixed that up. But it did for medieval doctors. The climate took a direct influence on the humors und could therefore heat or cool them. Mind you that the word “temper” comes from temperature and “hot” and “cold” temper are understood in every European language. See the philosophener Marsilius Finicus just as one example. He talked a lot about the health of the body being connected to the temperature of the humors. This means that the thought of hot and cold blood and their connection to the tempers was well accepted at Shakespeares time.
        Hot-blooded and cold-blooded both directly exist in many other languages (French: de sang froid, German: heißblütig, kaltblütig). In German especially “hot blood” or “cold blood” refers to the temper of hores breeds, again setting “temperature” and “temper” equal.

  • Dave

    Shakespeare gave poor Richard III a bad rep. He said he was a hunchback with a withered arm who killed his nephews. When in reality, all was wrong is he had a bad back. What sort of man would want to smear someone? The poor guy has been compared to a Nazi, Saddam Hussein.. You name it.

    • Nothing worse than we do today. Physical deformities are often an easy way to convey the evil nature of someone in literature and in the performing arts. Shakespeare took some literary license like many writers do. I’ve seen new stations and comedians do the same thing, usually for the shock value.

      Granted, there is strong evidence that Richard did kill his nephews, or at least had them assassinated, so that he could be king. Without Richard though, we wouldn’t have had the Tudor House on the throne, and that led to a wealth of progression and knowledge, even for Shakespeare. It might have been offensive to the crown for him to paint RIchard as a normal person with ambitions and goals like anyone else.

  • Steve

    ” Fun fact: to say “all of the sudden” is common among layman users, while using “all of a sudden” is deemed more grammatically correct.”

    Ah, the cheerful follies of those laymen users of the English language. If only they would take their various grammatical clues from those among us who are professional (TM) users of the English language. Or something.

    Despite my sarcasm, I enjoyed the list 🙂

    • Ha, I’m glad you did! I worked hard, and I admit, that sentence did give me some trouble. I may go back and fix it yet. 🙂

  • redstick

    Thanks for a good article. A good sampling of Shakespeare’s original usages. A quick Google search has turned up a ton of others. All of the scholars .point out that, while it is impossible to determine whether or not Shakespeare actually originated the phrase or word, his citations are the first known.