Becky, a 20-year-old English Lit geek living in London, scribbled out this list in a Moleskine notebook at 3 am
a couple nights ago. She posted it on her Tumblr page,
and within 24 hours, more than 11,000 people had saved it in their favorites file.

She was astonished. “I still don’t know how something I scribbled in a hurry at 3am got so many notes in the space of a day? Shakespeare is clearly too awesome,” Becky said in an update on the post today. “I spelt “bated” wrong, awk … Someone said this looks like a serial killer’s notebook, which made me laugh a lot. They’re not wrong, I’ve been a sleep deprived zombie lately.”

She certainly is a girl on a mission.

On her birthday on August 30th, she set a challenge for herself: Read a book every week until she turns 21. “Lately, I’ve gotten into the terrible habit of buying books but never reading them.
Gradually I’ve been reading less and less,” she said.

She put together a list of 52 books (heavy on Palahniuk, Murakami and Hemingway) and posted it here.
“I thought it would be a good way to encourage others to read more too.”
Want to take the challenge? The details are here.
She’s also giving away the books she reads.



55 Comments on Phrases We Owe to Shakespeare

  1. This is so freaking awesome! So glad you shared this. Would have LURVED to join the challenge but I don’t know if I can with so much school work. Ahhhh :)

  2. Saw Hamlet this summer (the excellent ISC production in Griffith Park.) I haven’t read the play since college, but just sat their dumbstruck thinking how many phrases and lines from that play alone we use daily AND how many books and plays have taken them as their title. For instance, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, which comes from Hamlet describing his father’s former jester, whose skull he holds in the play’s famous scene. . .

  3. that’s a brilliant idea! i love the phrases from Shakespeare. it’s funny because a lot of people don’t even realise where the sayings come from and what a massive impact he had on our language


  4. nice…this is awesome…had shakespeare on the brain when i wrote my post today too…cool idea on the reading a book a week…i have become really lazy…i used to read multiple books a week but now…not so much…

  5. Such a wonderful post! She is certainly inspiring to readers like me who sometimes allow the hasssles of daily life to come between a book and me. It’s encouraged to redouble my efforts. Thanks for this!

  6. Oh man, what an idea! I read a book a week for school, of course, but my own books? That would be fun. I’m kind of amazed that she managed to recall that many Shakespearean phrases in the middle of the night!

  7. I love the context it’s in. It makes it for a more memorable way to remember the bard’s contributions. I have forwarded this link to my friend and colleague who teaches H.S. English.

  8. How fun. I’ve been reading a lot more lately. It makes me happy to use my imagination. I just finished rereading some books from childhood. And i’m recording the 3 Musketeers for a friend of mine. Thats been super fun.

  9. Haha. This is awesome. Good for her and her awesome creativity. Now I’m inspired to pen something like that too. “Phrases we owe to Jane Austen?”

  10. That’s what my New Years Resolution was for this year. Some months are better than others but I’m already at 41. It’s been the best resolution I’ve ever made.

  11. Love your idea and sorry to be a buzzkill, but just so you know:

    Merchant of Venice i. iii. 125 ‘With BATED breath, and whispring humblenesse.


  12. Ahh what a wonderful post! I had no idea so many of these phrases originated in Shakespeare’s work – definitely an eye-opener! Thank you for sharing <3

  13. becky is a smart girl! great post by the way. and oh, i just wanted to tell you that i think your blog looks really pretty, you have made a lot of awsome posts!



  14. “Set your teeth on edge” is a phrase Shakespeare appropriated from the Bible:

    And he seide, ‘What is it, that ye turnen a parable among you in to this prouerbe, in the lond of Israel, and seien, Fadris eeten a bittir grape, and the teeth of sones ben an egge, ether astonyed?’ (Ezekiel 18:2; Wycliffe Bible 1395).

    What meane ye by this comon prouerbe that ye use in the lande of Israel, saying: The fathers haue eaten sowre grapes, and the chyldrens teeth are set on edge? (Ezekiel 18:2; The Bishop’s Bible 1568).

  15. I believe that’s how you spell spelt if you’re British, but I’m a blogger not a speller so really I have no idea…

  16. I’m humbled by the shoutout, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I honestly am not attempting to claim that I am clever in the slightest. By “English Lit geek” I merely mean that I have a passion for literature!

    Ever since I moved to London when I was five, my parents (worried that I would not pick up the language easily) showered me in books, a lot of CS Lewis and bible verses at church, took me to every museum within a drivable distance. I owe it all to them. I believe that everybody can be passionate about being engrossed in imaginary world of a book or lost in thought in front of a painting at a gallery – sometimes it just takes one spark to trigger this experience.

    Some may find reading a daunting experience, that’s probably because they haven’t found the right book for them. They find Hardy, Dickens and Austen boring and are under the impression that all books are written in (to them) jargon and obsolete words. Really though – how many 16 year olds actually know what a reddleman is?! If it had not been explained to me, I certainly would not have understood. There are many genres out there for everyone, I do not feel that anyone can go a lifetime without finding at least one piece of writing which truly speaks to them, changes them or their perspective on something. This is because words have that indescribable power on a reader.

    I may not know the correct meanings or spellings of every word, but the feeling of fascination that I got years ago when my teacher told me all about John Keats’ love for Fanny Brawne, the motivation behind his poetry, the smell of books, dreaming about Puddleglum and Narnia in my sleep as a child… these are all wonderful things that I hope others can experience too :)

  17. Lovely piece, but one correction…it is “bated breath”, not “baited breath”.

    A wonderful reminder of the breadth of English euphemism…and one of its earliest purveyors.



  18. Great post — I was not aware of the Bard’s influence on the English language. Learned something new today.

  19. “Breathed his last” is actually from the Old Testament of the Bible. Sorry, but Shakespeare doesn’t get credit for this one.

  20. Maybe whom ever wrote the bible stole it from Shakespeare??? Unless there is an old testament around from the early 1500’s to verify, I give credit to Shakespeare. =)

  21. Although I agree this is really cool, this girl didn’t just come up with all this herself. This is all taken from a poster at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. It has been there for years.

  22. Shakespeare didn’t invent the English language as far as I know. So it seems a bit of a leap of logic to credit him with so many commonplace phrases. Isn’t it just possible that he wrote down what he’d heard others say and what he’d picked up as part of his culture?

  23. questione di gusti non puoi dire quale toiglpoia di gioco pi bella, pertanto ti dico che ai puristi e cio’ agli amanti della serie r.evil piacciono di pi i primi pubblicati quelli zeppi di enigmi e difficolt alle stelle. A me piacerebbe giocare ad un r.evil bilanciato tra enigmi ma quelli tosti e ben fatti e azione ma senza sottovalutare la spettacolarit ecco io questo mi aspetterei da un buon gioco sopratutto da una serie cos importante come r.evil

  24. Very well done! I “appropiated” your idea, set it as type, added a few more, and created a poster. I will be using it in my classroom only! As an English teacher, I too labored over “which” or “that” or neither. Finally, went with “that”. Again a wonderful idea.

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