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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: December ::
Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2413  Thursday, 12 December 2002

[1]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Dec 2002 08:05:49 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2402 Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Dec 2002 14:50:57 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2402 Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?

[3]     From:   Virginia Byrne <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Dec 2002 16:37:04 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2402 Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Dec 2002 08:05:49 -0600
Subject: 13.2402 Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2402 Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?

I recall being taught in grad school that in fact Nashe coined more
words than Shakespeare did. That would be nice.

Frank Whigham

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Dec 2002 14:50:57 -0000
Subject: 13.2402 Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2402 Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?

>There is a PBS television series with a companion book The Story of
>English, 1986 by Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil,
>published by Elizabeth Sifton Books, Viking. USA.
>ISBN 0-670-80467-3 Library of Congress Catalogue Number 85-41070
[....]
>Episode (or chapter, depending on video or book form) 3 is "A Muse of
>Fire", where the language of Shakespeare and some of his coinings are
>reviewed. This interesting combination affords some samples of
>reconstructed pronunciation. I don't think there is an exact reference
>to the number of coinings.

"The importance of the Renaissance to the English language was that it
added between 10,000 and 12,000 new words to the lexicon."
Robert McCrum, William Cran & Robert MacNeil, The Story Of English (New
and Revised Edition London: BBC Books; Faber & Faber 1992, 1986), p.93

In this context, the estimate of 1500 seems way over the top for a
single individual. (Doesn't it?)

Bernard Levin is quoted on pp.98-99 listing a whole bunch of supposed
Shakespeareanisms, including "but me no buts". The endnote directs us to
Bernard Levin, Enthusiasms (London 1983), and points out that "The First
Folio citations for Shakespeare's vocabulary are not always reliable
evidence of his inventiveness, but no one challenges his extraordinary
range", p.406

"A word like 'multitudinous' is a reminder that Shakespeare had one of
the largest vocabularies of any English writer, some 30,000 words.
(Estimates of an educated person's vocabulary today vary, but it is
probably about half this, 15,000.) He was, to use his own phrase, 'a man
of fire-new words'... It is arguable that without such encouragement -
the imprimatur of genius - many of these words would not have survived."
pp.102-103

The "Bard of Avon" is rewarded for his services to the English Language
by getting his portrait onto the top left-hand corner of the
photo-montage that is the book's frontispiece.

martin

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Virginia Byrne <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Dec 2002 16:37:04 EST
Subject: 13.2402 Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2402 Re: How Many Words Did Shakespeare Invent?

I thought "but me no butts" was Cole Porter's in "Brush Up Your
Shakespeare"

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