Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bon Mots By the Avon Bard

William Shakespeare coined words and phrases the way most of us eat pistachio nuts. Thousands of his turns of phrase not only survived, but also became the stuff our language.

Here is just a sampling, compiled by the late English journalist Bernard Levin:

If you cannot understand my argument and declare, “It’s Greek to me,” you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare.

If you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare.

If you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked, or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort, or too much of a good thing.

If you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise—why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare.

If you think that it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe the game is up and that the truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then—to give the devil his due—and if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare.

Even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing-stock, the devil in incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then –by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! For goodness’ sake! What the dickens! but me no buts—it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.

No comments: