31
Dec
07

Twelfth Night, Twelfth Post: Bloggin’ Ain’t Bad

Dear Friends,

 Twelfth Night, Twelfth Post: Joke’s Over.  I can finally start numbering my posts like a normal person.

Marketing Director Kristin Godfrey said nice things about my blog today (thanks, Kristin!), complimenting especially the frequency of posts (one week, twelve posts… and counting).  I’ve got to admit, this blogging stuff is pretty fun.  Even the word “blog” is fun.  Paula Suozzi told me yesterday that “blog” was originally “weblog” but got shortened.  Why?  “Weblog” doesn’t take that much longer to say.  But that’s our language for you.  Constantly changing.

Speaking of our constantly-changing language, check out THIS segue: Bill Shakespeare had a huge influence on the English language.  Here’s an excerpt from a book I got for Christmas (nerd), Shakespeare, The World as Stage by Bill Bryson (pp113-115):

He coined – or, to be more carefully precise, made the first recorded use of – 2,035 words, and interestingly he indulged the practice from the very outset of his career.  Titus Andronicus and Love’s Labour’s Lost, two of his earliest works, have 140 new words between them.

…In plays written during his most productive and inventive period – Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear – neologisms occur at the fairly astonishing rate of one every two and a half lines.  Hamlet alone gave audiences about six hundred words that, according to all other evidence, they had never heard before.

Among the first words found in Shakespeare are abstemious, antipathy, critical, frugal, dwindle, extract, horrid, vast, hereditary, excellent, eventful, barefaced, assassination, lonely, leapfrog, indistinguishable, well-read, zany, and countless others (including countless).  Where would we be without them?  He was also particularly prolific, as David Crystal points out, when it came to attaching un- prefixes to existing words to make new words that no one had thought of before – unmask, unhand, unlock, untie, unveil and no fewer than 309 others in a similar vein.  Consider how helplessly prolix the alternatives to any of these terms are and you appreciate how much punch Shakespeare gave English.

He produced such a torrent of new words and meanings that a good many, as Otto Jespersen once bemusedly pointed out, “perhaps were not even clearly understood by the author himself.”  Certainly many of them failed to take hold.  Undeaf, untentunhappy (as a verb), exsufflicate, bespray, and insultment were among those that were scarcely heard again.  But a surprisingly large number did gain common currency and about eight hundred are still used today – a very high proportion.  As Crystal says, “Most modern authors, I imagine, would be delighted if they contributed even one lexeme to the future of the language.”

His real gift was as a phrasemaker… Among them: one fell swoop, vanish into thin air, bag and baggage, play fast and loose, go down the primrose path, be in a pickle, budge an inch, the milk of human kindness, more sinned against than sinning, remembrance of things past, beggar all description, cold comfort, to thine own self be true, more in sorrow than in anger, the wish is father to the thought, salad days, flesh and blood, foul play, tower of strength, be cruel to be kind, blinking idiot, with bated breath, pomp and circumstance, foregone conclusion…

If we take the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as our guide, then Shakespeare produced roughly one-tenth of all the most quotable utterances written or spoken in English since its inception – a clearly remarkable proportion.

 ***

Just imagine… if Bill could have blogged…

I’ll keep you posted,

kr

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