Coined by Shakespeare? 
Posted: 19 August 2013 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]
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New research indicates he didn’t make up all those words—he just used them better.

Finally, something reasonable about Shakespeare in the popular press.

“By dissolving the myth that his great contribution was to invent English words out of thin air, we are left with a clearer focus on qualities of his work that are less reducible to numbers: namely, the beauty of his writing and the richness of his cultural milieu.”

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Posted: 20 August 2013 02:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Note that it’s written by a doctoral candidate in English lit, not a typical journalist (although her specialty appears to be eighteenth-century literature, not Shakespeare).

I’m working on a post on the red flags that are common in bad journalism about language. This one does make a nice contrast to the usual junk we see.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Event without all this recent analysis, I’ve never been able to figure out why anyone should assume that any given word was coined by Shakespeare just because the earliest sighting was in his work.  One might just as easily hypothesise that he liked to use new trendy words and pounced on any he heard.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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One cause of the perception is a conflation of novel and creative uses of existing words and neologisms. Shakespeare was clearly highly inventive in how he used existing words in new senses.

Also, there is conflation between words and phrases. Phrases like “one fell swoop” and “sea change” were probably first used by the Bard (the latter almost certainly so). But that’s not the same thing as coining a new word. It’s not that Shakespeare was “coining phrases,” but rather the phrases became ingrained in the lexicon to the point of cliche through endless quotation.

But while he was creative in the use of language, there is nothing superhuman about what he did. Some other writers were just as creative, only we don’t notice it because they’re not Shakespeare.

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