Happy B-Day to the Bard

Have you ever met anyone who “set your teeth on edge,” or had a “heart of gold”? Ever tried to “break the ice” when getting “hot-blooded” over some hottie at the Socials, only to be “sent packing” by a significant other with the “green-eyed monster”? Well thank today’s birthday boy, William Shakespeare himself, for your ability to express yourself in a way so unique and idiomatic to the English language.

While Shakespeare’s actual birthdate is unknown, he was baptized on April 26th, and so today, April 23rd is traditionally seen as the day to celebrate—448 years ago today. Unfortunately, that 52nd birthday of his must not have been too great, because it was on that day that he died as well.

But at the same time, he didn’t really die. Shakespeare is one of the most well known (if not the most well-known) playwright and poet of the Western world. Almost every high school or college student in America has read—or at least was supposed to read—a play or sonnet of his. Whether or not you actually enjoy his writing, it’s not for nothing that his work has remained popular for this long. His multifaceted characters, complicated plotlines (although some of them may have been semi-plagiarized), and universal themes will make sure that Shakespeare is remembered long after Stephanie Meyer.

So here are four facts about the Bard that may chance how you think of him:


1. He shaped the bird population of North America.

In 1890, Eugene Schiffelin, a Shakespeare aficionado, thought it would be fun to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays to the United States. Specifically, he released 60 European starlings to New York and set them loose in Central Park. One-hundred-and-twenty-two years later, the starling population has reached 200 million, all descended from the original 60, as starlings are not native to the U.S.


2. He created the name Jessica.

The first recorded use of the name is in the play The Merchant of Venice as the name of the daughter of the character Shylock. The origin of the name itself seems to be from the Hebrew Yiskah, meaning foresight. While Shakespeare may not have invented the name exactly, he definitely Anglicized it from the original Hebrew.


3. Swagger. He’s got it.

Speaking of inventing words, Shakespeare made up a lot of them. Often this involved just turning nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, or just combining two words to make a new one, but because of him, English is 1700 words richer. And they’re pretty awesome words: cold-blooded, assassination, jaded, moonbeam, skim milk, and yes, even SWAGGER.


4. He wrote a poem about boners.

I’m not kidding here. Sonnet 151. Read and analyze it the way your English teachers taught you, and you’ll see it too.


Just look at that earring.

So happy 448th, Billy. Dirty jokes wouldn’t be the same without you!

<3 HazelWeatherfield and English majors everywhere