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Shakespeare is universal Harold Bloom How has literature changed the English language?
The best writers expand our personal vocabularies. They teach us new words or use old words in new ways. Chaucer was very important in this respect. But by far the most inﬂuential writer in the English language is someone we know very little about.
William Shakespeare is widely considered the greatest writer in any language. He is also very important in the evolution of the English lexicon or vocabulary. One element of this inﬂuence is that he greatly increased the number of word in common use. In his plays and poems Shakespeare used over 20,000 words. This was at a time when the average vocabulary was less than 1,000.
It is diﬃcult to know whether Shakespeare invented new words or recorded them for the ﬁrst time. But he is responsible for introducing hundreds of words into the lexicon, including the following:
• accommodation, aerial, amazement, apostrophe, assassination, auspicious, • baseless, bloody, bump, castigate, control, countless, courtship, critic, critical • dishearten, dislocate, dwindle exposure, frugal, generous, gloomy, hurry, laughable
In addition to individual new words, there are countless examples of new phrases invented by Shakespeare. Here are ten examples:
• 'star crossed lovers' - Romeo and Juliet, • 'sound and fury' - Macbeth • 'salad days' - Anthony and Cleopatra • ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be’ - Hamlet • ‘brave new world - The Tempest • ‘ a foregone conclusion’ - Othello • ‘a laughing stock’ - The Merry Wives of Windsor • ‘a sorry sight’ - Macbeth • ‘all corners of the world’ - Cymbeline • ‘all's well that ends well’ - All's Well That Ends Well
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