Thursday, November 13, 2014

Shakespeare Broke Science

You know that feeling when you're trying to write a paper but you just can't think of the right word? Well, good ole' Willy had a very simple solution to this problem. Just invent a new word! Shakespeare coined many of the words we use in every day language. Words that seem common to us, like "luggage," "rant," "torture," and "bump," either did not exist or held a different meaning prior to Shakespeare's use of them. Below is a link with more examples of words coined by Shakespeare.

In addition to individual words, a great many modern cliches have Shakespearean origins. "Truth will out," "too much of a good thing," "up in arms," and "vanish into thin air" are just a few.

My favourite example of Shakespearean vocabulary is his invention of the poison used to kill Hamlet's father. "Hebona," or "hebenon"as it is spelled in the Folios, is not a real toxin or plant. There is no record of the word prior to its use in Hamlet. Further, there is no known poison that would cause the exact symptoms described in the play, namely curdling the blood and bark-like scabbing over the whole body. Possible candidates include yew, hemlock, henbane, and guaiacum. However, none of these could account for all of the named symptoms. This plant doesn't exist.

Good job, Shakespeare. You broke science.


Sri Korrapati said...

How are words even made in the first place? Do people just make a sound and give it meaning via context for other people to then repeat in the same context? What about Shakespeare? He provides a context, yes, but can we really know exactly what he meant by the words he uses? I mean, what if he meant something else by the word luggage? If I said, the bellboy took my luggage upstairs, then we can assume different meanings for the word luggage. It could just mean purse! But I guess the word LUGgage kind of implies what that word means nowadays. We never know though, Shakespeare could've imagined something else when writing his new words

Ross said...

I'm going to try to answer your question Sri. Shakespeare's invention of words could have been several different things. Firstly, he could have made up words by simply taking nouns and verbs, and then changing them into other verbs and adjectives. "Olympian" is an example of this. Secondly, he may have shortened already existing words so that they fit. And, thirdly, these words could have just been slang, used only by the common folk, and might have been unofficial until Shakespeare used them in his plays.

Joe D said...

Many neologisms are based on Latin (or other) roots. For instance, Shakespeare came up with the word "addicted," which comes from the Latin "addicere," which can mean "to devote oneself..." Moral of the story: Shakespeare was a smart cookie, even if he makes up poisons to fit is meter.

Breuna Westry said...

In the words of Isabel "I make random noises and you understand them". I actually find it hilarious that if one wanted to they could create words. Perhaps it will take many, many years of catching on but who knows. We could all be calling our friends Bertha soon.