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Words coined by Shakespeare
It’s been more than 456 years since Shakespeare put pen to paper and in honor of the day that his birth is celebrated, April 23rd, it seems appropriate to revisit this little-known, but amazing, fact: The Bard is said to have invented between 1,700 and 2,200 words. No wonder he didn’t need a dictionary — he practically invented it (see Sans Dictionary). Will’s not alone in the word-coining universe: George R.R. Martin, author of the incredibly popular Game of Throne series invented a whole language called Dothraki. In Dothraki, for example, “small clothes” translates into “underwear.” Bet you didn’t know that! See how much you learn reading KWD?
But I digress. New words are cropping up all the time. The Oxford online dictionary recently introduced these gems: awesomesauce; manspreading; and onboarding.
Back to The Bard of Avon. Surely, our boy Will must have had tons of fun dreaming up all his freshly minted words and word combos. Just in case you want to do the same, here’s an overview of five of Wily Will’s tricky wordsmithing techniques:*
Verbing (changing nouns into verbs): When Cleopatra said, “I’ll unhair thy head!” she was verbing. When we say, parenting, shoulder the blame or table that motion, so are we.
Adjectivizing (think I just invented a new word!) — transforming verbs into adjectives. Example: After you filter water, it turns into filtered water. Barefaced, blushing and gloomy are all adjectives coined by Shakespeare.
Combining words: Clever new word combinations crop up in the media all the time and making these up has to be a blast. A few examples: Youniverse, Brangelina, tween, and authorpreneur. A variation, dubbed “portmanteaus,” refers to words that blend the sounds and meanings of two words. Blog, for example, is a shortened version of weblog (website plus log). A few more: jeggings (jeans plus leggings), screenager, and a personal favorite coined by Alex when he was four: freelax as in, “Just freelax, Mom!”
Agglutination: Whoa! Someone needs to invent a better word for this process – adding prefixes and suffixes. This results in words like: declutter and commoditize. A few gems from Shakespeare: discontent; invulnerable, metapmorphize.
Cold-blooded coining: Some words just spring from nowhere. A few Shakespeare conjured up one morning or afternoon when he was tired of writing Hamlet: addiction, lonely, and manager. Who knew?
Any words you or a friend have invented? I love to hear about them! Now that I’ve stoked your creative fires, let’s all write on!
* Kudos to the terrific Copyblogger.com site for an online story by Demian Farnworth called “Shakespeare’s 5 Rules for Making Up Words (to Get Attention)” from which I blushingly purloined these fashionable techniques and many of the zany examples.
When middle daughter Anne was a child, she was reluctant to apologize when she felt she’d been right, but sometimes, bowing to pressure to say she was sorry, she would mutter a truncated “sar.”
Members of the family picked it up and even friends adopted it. It became shorthand for a fleeting acknowledgement of offense.If you bumped into someone accidentally, you could say, “Oh, sar,” and just keep going.
Thanks so much for sharing this story — I love it! So great the way these ceative words we all invent become art of family lore and usage! One day Alex and I were running around when he was little trying to get some things done. He looked up at me and said, “Just freelax, Mom.” I laughed out loud and I’ve been using his word ever since! Just “freelax” — says it all, doesn’t it?