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10 Words and Phrases You Won't Believe Shakespeare Invented

Shakespeare invented more words than most people even know. Seriously, there's at least 1,500 different words and phrases that don't appear anywhere prior to the Bard of Avon putting them on paper. When he got stuck trying to think up a word, the man just made his own.

It's kind of like what rappers do today, except the words Shakespeare made up got embedded into our culture and have formed the cornerstone of our discourse, rather than being obnoxiously spouted by white college students trying to be ironic. And while they weren't all winners ("unhair" still seems to be struggling) others, as you'll see, are so common you've probably already quoted Shakespeare today and you didn't even know it. Fo' sheezy.

Eyeball

First Used:
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, Scene ii, Oberon to Puck.

"Then crush this herb into Lysander's eye;
Whose liquor hath this virtuous property,
To take from thence all error with his might,
And make his eyeballs roll with wonted sight."

Translated:
"Grind leaves and shit into that guy's eyes until he goes blind."

Where We'd Be Without It:
Totally unable to explain where we sniped this guy in Call of Duty 4.

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Yep, as far as we know that's the first time anybody wrote the word "eyeballs." "Eyes" were there, "balls" were there, yet no one until Billy thought to put the two together. Well, there was one guy, but according to historical records that ended in an arrest for assault and indecent exposure.

Puking

First Used:
As You Like It, Act II, Scene vii, Jaques to Duke Senior.

"They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms."

Translated:
"All humans have seven things in common. One of those things is that when they were babies, they threw up on their governesses."

Where We'd Be Without It:
Without a proper search term for many of the funniest videos on the internet.

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Imagining Shakespeare's quill scratching parchment whenever we're hugging the toilet after our ninth vodka tonic gives it a surreal quality that certainly doesn't help the hangover.

Skim Milk

First Used:
Henry IV, Part I, Act II, Scene iii, Hotspur Soliloquy.

"O, I could divide myself
and go to buffets, for moving such a dish of
skim milk with so honourable an action!"

Translated:
"I should knock myself out for telling our awesome plan to such a douche nozzle."

Where We'd Be Without It:
Drinking only thick, full, silky whole milk, the way God intended.

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
We haven't done the research necessary to determine whether people in Shakespeare's time drank skim milk, so we're going to assume that he not only coined a word, but simultaneously launched an entire branch of dairy products. For a modern rap corollary, imagine if the Milkshake Song had invented the word milkshake, and the concept of milkshakes. Pretty unbelievable.

Obscene

First Used:
Love's Labours Lost, Act I, Scene i, Ferdinand to Costard.

"Then for the place where; where, I mean, I did encounter
that obscene and preposterous event, that draweth
from my snow-white pen the ebon-coloured ink, which
here thou viewest, beholdest, surveyest, or seest;"

Translated:
"That's where I saw it happen, the thing I wrote about which you now see, see, see or see."

Where We'd Be Without It:
The FCC would have to describe 50's next album as "probably not something you want the kids to hear."

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Shakespeare was such a filthy writer, it's hard to imagine him inventing a word that would inevitably be used against him. After all, this is the man who used the word "country matters" in Hamlet to mean "matters pertaining to the cunt." Beat that, Fiddy.

Hot-Blooded

First Used:
King Lear, Act II, Scene iv, King Lear to Regan.

"Necessity's sharp pinch! Return with her?
Why, the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
Our youngest born, I could as well be brought
To knee his throne, and, squire-like;"

Translated:
"I'd rather blow the King of France than do what you just said."

Where We'd Be Without It:
Without any tactful way to describe our angry drunk of a boyfriend when our friends ask where those bruises came from.

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Because the wild, untamed riffs of Foreigner have no place in classical English literature, except maybe the fight scene at the end of Macbeth. Nothing underscores a beheading like electric guitar.

The Game is Afoot

First Used:
Henry IV, Part I, Act I, Scene iii, Northumberland to Hotspur.

"Before the game is afoot, thou still let'st slip."

Translated:
"Dude, we haven't even shuffled the cards and you're already in the Lollipop Woods."

Where We'd Be Without It:
Reading the less-than-gripping adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his signature catchphrase, "My dear Watson, I do believe this shit is bananas."

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle owned it so thoroughly, we're surprised his estate hasn't filed a retroactive copyright lawsuit. Of course Shakespeare could only pay in ducats, so it probably wasn't worth the effort.

Epileptic

First Used:
King Lear, Act II, Scene ii, Kent to Cornwall.

"A plague upon your epileptic visage!
Smile you my speeches, as I were a fool?
Goose, if I had you upon Sarum plain,
I'ld drive ye cackling home to Camelot."

Translated:
"Fuck you, retard. I want to fight you."

Where We'd Be Without It:
Without the medical definition to apply when we see someone flailing wildly, we'd quickly start staggering dangerously into politically incorrect territory, just as those afflicted stagger dangerously towards...well, whatever's around them at the time. We'd also have one less legitimate reason to hate anime.

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
He was a poet, an actor, and a doctor?! It makes us wonder if Shakespeare might have invented other afflictions that didn't catch on, like tuberculasers or genital slurpees.

Wormhole

First Used:
The Rape of Lucrece.

"To fill with worm-holes stately monuments,
To feed oblivion with decay of things,
To blot old books and alter their contents,
To pluck the quills from ancient ravens' wings."

Translated:
A more eloquent version of what goth kids are thinking all the time.

Where We'd Be Without It:
Well, for one, we wouldn't have a handy phrase to describe what worms create when they burrow through moist earth. Also, we wouldn't be able to FLY FUCKING STARSHIPS THROUGH SPACE AND TIME.

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Mainly because it's from the goddamned future. When you invent a word that describes technology so far beyond your own time's that it makes the neutron bomb look like a guy clapping really hard, you can take the rest of the day off. The Starfleet Federation, producers of Sliders and future population of Tau Ceti IV Alpha Base thank you, William Shakespeare.

Alligator

First Used:
Romeo and Juliet (First Folio), Act V, Scene I, Romeo Soliloquy.

"And in his needie shop a Tortoyrs hung,
An Allegater stuft, and other skins
Of ill shap'd fishes, and about his shelues,
A beggerly account of emptie boxes."

Translated:
No one knows.

Where We'd Be Without It:
Try and think of a single word that rhymes with "see you later" and pairs well with "in a while, crocodile." What's that? You can't? Shakespeare, bitch.

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Because it's hard to imagine what people called them before then. We figure cries of "Ye Gods, watch out for that Chompapottamus!" were much more common in those days.

Household Words

First Used:
King Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii, Henry to Westmoreland.

"Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd."

Translated:
"Five hundred years from now, there won't be a single man, woman, or child on Earth who doesn't remember the names Bedford, Talbot, and Exeter. Everyone will know exactly what happened in this war and what's important about St. Crispin's Day, especially people who read comedy articles on the internet during their coffee breaks. The reference will not go over their heads in the slightest, for they will recall Salisbury as a brilliant tactician and ingenious statesman, and certainly not as a bland slice of cafeteria meat."

Where We'd Be Without It:
Unable to describe the entries in this list.

Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Because so few people have the foresight to invent words to describe their own legacy. In fact, other than this phrase, we can only think of one person who invented a word that perfectly captures the sum of their impact on the planet. And even then, not everyone counts "strategery" as a word.

If you enjoyed that, you'll probably enjoy this rundown of 9 Words That Don't Mean What You Think, an article with way more boobs and dicks than the title might lead you to believe. Or, enjoy Michael's even more offensive version of that racist Super Bowl ad.

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