The Shakespearian Idioms You Never Knew You were Using

Shakespeare’s language is long dead and gone, having no influence on how we speak today. Shakespeare himself could walk among us and not have a clue about anything we were saying. Right? Well, no. Shakespeare might be long gone, but the legacy of his language is alive and kicking, in the words he invented and the phrases he cobbled together. So, without further ado, let’s look at some Shakespearean expressions. Which would you never have guessed were from the great playwright himself?

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Heart of Gold

We all have people with hearts of gold in our lives. Those people who are loving, nurturing, would do anything for anyone pretty much all of the time. They also tend to be the first people to be manipulated, though, so it’s not always a good thing to be one of these! This phrase first appeared in Henry V, when Pistol uses it to describe the king, saying, “The king’s a bawcock, and a heart of gold, a lad of life, an imp of fame, of parents good, of fist most valiant.” Douglas Adams named a spaceship the Heart of Gold, and Neil Young used the phrase as one of his song titles. Shakespeare must have been on to something, then!


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Forever and a day

For all the romantics out there, you’ve probably lettered this phrase as part of a heart-felt scribbling in plenty of Valentine’s Day cards. This phrase comes from As You Like It, where Rosalind says to Orlando, “Now tell me how long you would have her after you have possessed her.” Orlando replies with, “Forever and a day.” Meaning? You’re going to love this person for a very, very long time. Though it can also be used to say something is taking too long to do. You’ll see the phrase as the title of a James Bond novel, and in song lyrics by everyone from August Alsina to Lionel Richie.


Kill with kindness

Most of us think of this phrase when we see overweight pets, or children who have never heard the word no in their lives. Kill with kindness is from Taming Of The Shrew, when Petruchio says, “This is a way to kill a wife with kindness, and thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humor.” Selena Gomez has used the phrase in one of her songs, and it’s the title of an Ed James book. Articles offering advice on family situations use the phrase all the time to teach us how to, well, stop being overly kind in an attempt to keep someone happy. Like that sneaky dog who keeps giving us puppy eyes begging for an extra treat.




Love is blind

The Merchant of Venice brought us this phrase. Jessica says, “But love is blind, and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit, for if they could Cupid himself would blush to see me thus transformèd to a boy.” And it’s true; how many of us have ignored or just not seen the faults and foibles of a person, because we’re so in love with them we’re not even aware these problems exist? Love is Blind is the title of a Whitbread Award-winning novel by William Boyd, and has been used in song lyrics by everyone from Fergie to Annie Lennox.


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Wild-goose chase

“Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five. Was I with you there for the goose?” Thanks, Mercutio, for so well explaining why a wild-goose chase is a mad one! Romeo and Juliet might have seen the first appearance of this phrase but we’re sure all humans throughout history have experienced this thing. If you’re on a wild-goose chase you’re trying to get or achieve something that in your heart of hearts you know is impossible. The Wild Goose Chase has been a film title for films in 1915, 1932, 1975, and 1990. And it’s also the name of a beer made by the Wild Beer Co. The perfect accompaniment when reading Shakespeare, perhaps?


We have barely scraped the surface on the contributions of Shakespeare to the English language. Shakespeare invented more than 1,700 words that are still in use today! So the next time someone bemoans the ever-changing language that we use, give a nod to Mr. Shakespeare, who’s still relatable after all this time.