Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Modern Terms Shakespeare Would Have Mocked

It's time to complain about new things people say that I don't like. I know Shakespeare would have mocked them, too, because in his plays he often made sport of trendy Elizabethan ways of speaking. One awesome* example can be found in Measure for Measure, where the clown Lavatch riff ons "O, lord, sir!," an all-purpose phrase which empty-headed Jacobean gentlemen used just to "be talking" (to quote Beatrice from Much Ado about Nothing). Another example occurs in As You Like It, where Touchstone lists, for the benefit of faint-hearted gallants who want to avoid sword-fighting challenges they've incurred, the many applications of the word "if" to escape the final showdown. ("Much virtue in 'if'," Touchstone concludes.) And there's another instance in Hamlet when Hamlet, in conversation with the "waterfly" Osric, parodies Osric's use of grandiloquent words. When Osric gets befuddled trying to follow him ("Sir?"), Hamlet and Horatio just snigger.

I'm not Shakespeare, alas, but here are my versions of "O, lord, sir" and Osric-speech for 2018. As my title suggests, most of these examples come from radio, TV, and internet, but I've heard people use some of them in regular conversation, too. To quote Shakespeare, "Stop" (Hamlet, 3.3).