The clever way Shakespeare ignores rules and thus creates better more powerful new words and language e.g. Uncomfortable
- On Radiolab Episode about Words, Jad and Robert talk to James Shapiro, a Shakespeare scholar at Columbia. He notes that Shakespeare is the inventor of an impressive list of words and phrases.
It's obviously interesting to see the origin of common phrases that you don't even think about using - "eaten me out of house and home", "charmed life", "dead as a doornail", "full circle", "good riddance", "in a pickle", "Knock knock! Who's there?" (whoa, seriously?), etc. The part I found the most intriguing was Shakespeare's pioneering use of prefixes like "out" ("outbreak", "outgrow", "outweigh"), "over" ("overgrowth", "overview"), and "un" ("unaware", "unchanging", "uncomfortable", "unreal"). Oh, and he invented "eyeball".
ROBERT KRULWICH: But look what he did just by adding a little prefix “un.”
JAMES SHAPIRO: There’s so many words that we’re now familiar with—unnerved. You know, we all know what that means but nobody had heard of unnerved, unaware, uncomfortable .... Unearthly, unhand, undress, uneducated, ungoverned, unmitigated, unwillingness unpublished, something that’s near and dear to my heart.
... Unpublished. Unsolicited, unswayed, unclogged, unappeased, unchanging, unreal.
JAD ABUMRAD: Would an audience at the time have understood what the “un” prefix meant, not real?
JAMES SHAPIRO: I think it takes you a split second. Uuuunnnnnrrrrrreeeeaaaaallll… To kind of put that “un” on the real.
ROBERT KRULWICH: But then suddenly you got this new concept that there's something real but not.
JAMES SHAPIRO: He’s taking words that ordinarily are not stuck together; things like mad cap, ladybird. Shoving them together, eye drops, to achieve a kind of atomic power. Eyesore, eyeball.
ROBERT KRULWICH: It’s hard to understand how someone could think of, that up, it seems like it’s always been there.
JAMES SHAPIRO: If you ask me what his greatest gift is. He's putting them together into phrases that have stuck in our heads. So truth will out. What's done is done. I could "go on and on".
Crack of doom. My favorite: Dead as a doornail. A dish fit for the gods. A dog will have his day. Fainthearted, fool's paradise, forever and a day, foregone conclusion, the game is afoot, the game is up. Greek to meet, I’m in a pickle, in my heart of hearts, in my mind’s eye, kill with kindness. (Sigh.) Believe it or not, knock, knock, who's there?
Laugh yourself into stitches; love is blind, what the Dickens, all’s well that ends well. Something wicked this way comes. And a sorry sight.
JAMES SHAPIRO: How did he create phrases that stick in the mind? That make it seems as if they always existed.