SHAKESPEARE WOULD HAVE ADULTED TOO
Or a quick lesson on functional shift in Shakespearian (and modern!) English
- •One of the things that Shakespeare is best known for is the number of words he added to the English language.There's quite a debate on how many words he actually created vs how many he just recorded first, but that's neither here nor there. Let's just say we use a lot of words (and phrases) today that are first recorded in Shakespeare's writings.
- •But what we don't realize is that many of the words he added to our vocabulary were created through a process that we still use to create words today - functional shift.Functional shift is the creation of new words by changing the part of speech (changing a verb to an adjective, or a noun to a verb, for example).
- •Here are some words that Shakespeare "created" through functional shift:
- •dialogue (noun to verb)"Dost dialogue with thy shadow?" Timon of Athens; Act II, sc ii
- •glove (noun to verb)"A scaly gauntlet now with joints of steel must glove this hand." Henry IV Part 2; Act I, sc i
- •demure (adjective to verb)"Your wife Octavia, with her modest eyes and still conclusion, shall acquire no honour demuring upon me." Antony and Cleopatra; Act VI, sc xv
- •label (noun to verb)"I will give out divers schedules of my beauty. It shall be inventoried, and every particle and utensil labelled to my will." Twelfth Night; Act I, sc v
- •lip (noun to verb) and wanton (adjective to noun)"Oh, 'tis the spite of hell, the fiend's arch-mock, to lip a wanton in a secure couch, and to suppose her chaste." Othello, Act IV, sc I
- •Functional shift is still alive and well today - verbs like google, text, trend, bookmark, rollerblade, and medal (think Olympics) all started life as nouns, and they have all made it into English dictionaries in the last 15 years.Side note :: the process of converting nouns into verbs is (wonderfully enough) often called "verbing" - which is, itself, a noun made into a verb.
- •So next time your mom (or your professor or your boss) gives you grief over the fact that you're using the word "adult" as a verb, just tell them you're following in the footsteps of the Bard!Maybe choose your moment well, though. Smart-assing the boss on a Monday morning isn't always the best move. 😜