Foolery

Shakespeare: Trend-Setter | Fit for a Fool

By June 5, 2015 No Comments

With the recent release of a new Scrabble dictionary featuring words (and I use the term very loosely) like lolz, it was a welcome relief to read this story this week, as we are reminded again that Shakespeare was quite the trend setter. This time with words. Unfriend is not a word coined by Facebook, or at least not first coined by Facebook but instead has a much longer history, a history which Shakespeare was not only part of but instigated. Linguists David and Ben Crystal mentioned this in their talk at the recent Hay Festival here in the UK. Shakespeare didn’t specifically use the word ‘unfriend’ but the un + word formula which forms ‘unfriend’ is a classic technique used by Shakespeare giving us words like unsex and uncurse. And as for thinking that Shakespeare’s words were totally different to the words we use today, the Crystals blow that theory out of the window too. The reality, they claim, is a difference of only 5%.

In passing news this week Twitter was compared to Shakespeare, in its “much ado about nothing” approach to monetise its product. Don’t believe me? Why not check out this clip here for more.

Into tattoos and a Shakespeare fan? Then you’re in luck. BuzzFeed published a piece about tattoos that only Shakespeare lovers will understand (not his literal lovers of course – they’ve been dead for years). The obvious ones are there, like ‘Love is an ever-fixed mark..’ and ‘If music be the food of love play on’ but there are also some more unusual selections, and some slimmed down quotations which you’ve got to be a real Shakespeare detective to figure out – see if you can spot them before the helpful caption prompts you!

Searching for that perfect Shakespeare gift? Have you seen this – it collates all the quintessentially (and some rather more bizarre) Shakespeare-themed etsy gifts. From Iphone covers to Hamlet leggings, and even Shakespeare tea – there’s quite a variety.

Do you ever get that sneaking suspicion that you might be living in a Shakespearean history play? Fear not! The Toast have published a list of tell-tale signs so now you can know for sure.

I think my favourite comes from lines inspired by Henry IV part 2:

Thou art king, thy head is heavy with the crown, and thou speakest of this fact endlessly.

Though it’s a pretty close call with this (see Henry V for more vegetable incidents..)

Thou hast been forced to eat a leek.

What do you think? And are your fears confirmed that you are in fact living in a Shakespearean history play, if so which one? Feel free to tweet in your responses (to @srawaters) or comment below.

And now with BritGrad conference in full swing I’d better get back to Stratford-upon-Avon, there endeth this week’s foolery column. Well, almost. I’ll leave you with this collection of Shakespeare knock-knock jokes. Including nuggets like this one:

Knock, Knock.

Who’s there?

Ferris.

Ferris who?

Ferris foul and foul is fair

Until next time foolery lovers, keep foolin’ around – Shakespeare style!

Author Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is a PhD student at Oxford Brookes University, England where she is currently researching female melancholia in the early modern period (as presented in Shakespearean and early modern drama and proto-medical treatises) and contemporary female depression. She is interested in all things Shakespeare related, particularly contemporary Shakespeare adaptation and appropriation.

More posts by Sarah Waters

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