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Phrases from Shakespeare

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The influence William Shakespeare has had on the English language is well known. In a previous commentary, I talked about the number of words he created or coined. He also is responsible for so many everyday phrases we use. Christina Sterbenz provides the context for these phrases we often use and forget were from Shakespeare.

When we use the phrase “catch a cold,” we mean that we are getting sick. In one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays someone says that should head “straight away for Britain, lest the bargain should catch cold and starve.” In other words, if the deal takes too long, it will fall apart. This came to eventually mean someone would get sick.

If you say, “It’s all Greek to me,” you are referring back to a scene in “Julius Caesar. Cassius doesn’t understand because he doesn’t speak Greek. Today it means that you don’t understand something because it is foreign or confusing.

Someone who is able to take advantage of life’s opportunities may have someone say: “The world is your oyster.” That phrase of Shakespeare comes from “The Merry Wives of Windsor.

You have probably have heard that “love is blind.” You may not know that the phrase appears in “The Merchant of Venice” by Shakespeare. Jessica says that “love is blind and lovers cannot see, the pretty follies that themselves commit.” Lovers often have the inability to see shortcomings in the one they love.

Someone might say that your have “a heart of gold.” They are using a phrase from Shakespeare found in “Henry V.” King Henry disguises himself as a commoner and asks Pistol if he considers himself a better man than the king. He answers using this now common phrase.

In order to start a conversation with someone, we explain that we need to “break the ice.” That phrase can be found in Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” And if you express your emotions too freely, someone might say you “wear your heart on your sleeve.” We find that phrase in Shakespeare’s “Othello.”

As you can see, we owe so much of our English language and common everyday phrases to William Shakespeare.


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