A Shakespeare (1582-1616) troupe will be in Pella this week. I must confess, I find Shakespeare’s comedies really funny. The wording is hard to understand sometimes though because commonly used colloquial phrases have changed quite a lot. In honor of this, I’ve put together a list of words and phrases used back in the 16-1700s. I got these not from Shakespeare but from a play called She Would and She Would Not by Colley Cibber 1671-1757. (This play caught my eye because it has a strong female lead character who was one of Dora Jordan’s greatest roles.) Can you figure out what they mean? What phrases of today will be confusing to future generations? Have I missed any of your favorites?
2. Artful vs artless
3. I’ll Break no square
7. How now?
Ready for the answers?
- Pry’thee also prithee means “pray thee”. It sounds nice. Almost like please. But it was more like WTF.
- Artful vs artless We’ve all heard of Artful Dodger. Someone artful is shrewd, crafty, skilled. Artless sounds like the person would be a clod but it means without deceit, innocent, natural.
- I’ll Break no square– my best guess is that this means I’ll not step out of line or formation.
- quota “quoth he” but not particularly nice, kind of like “so he says” or “yeah right”
- odzooks similar to gadzooks (aka “yikes”) meaning God’s hook or the nails that held Christ to the cross. Creepy, don’t you think?
- puppy can mean a vain young man, a puppet, or a dog, the former in She Would and She Would Not
- How now? means “what” or more often, “what’s up?”. Famously used to show skill in elocution as in How now brown cow?”