Talk Like Shakespeare Day

April 23 (the generally accepted date of the bard's birth) is Talk Like Shakespeare Day. According to the Essential Shakespeare Handbook, Shakespeare introduced approximately 1,500 new words to the English language. However, according to Paul Dickinson of Shakespeare's "17,245 words, only about slightly less than 500 original words could be truly attributed to him." 

During the period when Shakespeare was writing, new words were rapidly entering the English language. There was increased contact between English-speakers and the broader world through trade, exploration, and colonization, as well as through contact with the rapidly developing fields of law, science, and medicine. So while Shakespeare may not have created all of the new words that appear in his plays, the The Oxford English Dictionary does credit him with "first use."

Many of these words and phrases are still common in modern speech. You already speak like Shakespeare when you use words like advertising, engagement, gossip, pandemonium, or watchdog. And many of his expressions are a regular part of our everyday vocabulary:

  • “As good luck would have it” — (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
  • “Refuse to budge an inch” — (Measure for Measure / The Taming of the Shrew)
  • “Eaten me out of house and home” — (Henry IV Part II)
  • “Knock knock! Who’s there?” — (Macbeth)
  • “Play fast and loose” — (King John)
  • "Wild-goose chase” — (Romeo and Juliet)

The best way to get ready to Talk Like Shakespeare is to reread some of his plays: The Complete Works. Or as "brevity is the sole of wit" (Hamlet), check out Reduced Shakespeare.

Need more tips on sounding more like Shakespeare? The Chicago Shakespeare Company has this handy poster to help you make some simple changes to sound more like the bard or you can check out a Shakespearean insult generator. NPR also has some good tips.

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