You Probably Quote Shakespeare Every Single Day

A look at how pervasive the Bard is in our modern language.

We are fast approaching the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the history of the English language (unless you think he was actually Kit Marlowe or Ben Johnson or someone else). It's such an easy thing to say, but sometimes you need to be reminded of the extraordinary and lasting power that The Bard's words have had on our language and our culture. He invented at least 170 words that are still in use, and when I say still in use I mean words like 'zany' and 'epileptic' and 'beached' and 'obscene' and the word that describes my profession, 'critic.'

But more than that, Shakespeare created immortal turns of phrases that we also use almost every day. It's easy to think that the basic idioms of our language just organically appeared, that some random guy coined a phrase and it stuck and grew. Sometimes that's the case, but as the video below shows a lot of common phrases weren't coined by some guy. They were coined by William Shakespeare.


As a writer I love stories, and Shakespeare set the standard for them, telling tales upon which we have been riffing for hundreds of years. But I also love words, and I love that Shakespeare wasn't just a great storyteller, he was history's greatest English wordsmith. In a time when we are rightly reconsidering the canon of old dead white guys it's important to remember that Shakespeare earned his spot the hard way - by being a completely unparalleled genius who has never stopped impacting the world.