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quoting Shakespeare

Cleaning out my email drafts, where I used to save stuff. I've always liked this quote for showing just how many phrases from Shakespeare's work have been silently embedded into English.

"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 it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that 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 - 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 were dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil 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."

(Bernard Levin. From The Story of English. Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil. Viking: 1986).

The internet informs me that "but me no buts" is misattributed and should point to Susanna Centlivre, which rather deflates the quote.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 6th, 2013 07:48 am (UTC)
Some ado about the Bard
I'm suddenly reminded of a thin, but delightful, volume called Filthy Shakespeare, by someone called Pauline Kiernan, which (as the title suggests) goes into some detail about the sexual puns and other word-play contained within the Bard's plays. A lovely book for a lazy Sunday afternoon ...
Aug. 6th, 2013 05:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Some ado about the Bard
It really is everywhere :P Just sometimes couched in other terms.
Aug. 6th, 2013 09:56 am (UTC)
Aah dear old Bernard Levin with his acid brushed tongue. Miss him, he was a truly well-read vocal intellectual who READ what he read, and chomped it to shreds. LOVELY.

And this other just above. That should be fun! Almost every other phrase I should think has to be included. teehee... I love Willy for his double entendres. Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well!!! You see.... (giggles.)

Aug. 6th, 2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
The sentence he wrote is a thing of beauty. It pummels you with the force of all the different sayings--just beautifully put together.

Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well!!! You see.... (giggles.)

*giggles too* Oh my goodness I hadn't even thought of that. I always think of the animaniacs sketch of the scene, where one of the characters says the lines and the other one provides a modern translation sarcastically.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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