It’s Talk Like Shakespeare Day


It’s William Shakespeare’s 449th birthday. Happy Birthday Will! Honoring this special occasion, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has officially proclaimed April 23, 2013 Talk Like Shakespeare Day: “Everyone is encouraged to express themselves through the incorporation of Shakespearean language and dialect.”

Visit the Talk Like Shakespeare Day web site to find out how to emulate the Bard. Below is a nice little starter pack from the site, and then a Shakespeare Insult Kit, if you feel like being a dankish dog-hearted gudgeon for the occasion. But let’s not forget that we talk a little bit like Shakespeare every day. As Mental Floss reminded us earlier this year, many of the Bard’s own verbal inventions made their way into our language and remain there today, as do words that he popularized through his dramas. So when we say addiction, belongings, or even eyeballs, we have Mr. Shakespeare to thank for installing them in our vocabulary. As Romeo & Juliet in Urban Slang explains: “It has been said that Shakespeare created 1 out of 10 of the words he included in his plays. Some of the words already existed, but Shakespeare employs them creatively by using them in a different part of speech. The words that Shakespeare used that were already slang became greatly popularized after being included in his plays.

How to Talk Like Shakespeare

  1. Instead of you, say thou or thee (and instead of y’all, say ye).
  2. Rhymed couplets are all the rage.
  3. Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin.
  4. Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads.
  5. Don’t waste time saying “it,” just use the letter “t” (’tis, t’will, I’ll do’t).
  6. Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.
  7. When in doubt, add the letters “eth” to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).
  8. To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore.
  9. When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say “Get thee to a nunnery!”
  10. When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.

How to Swear Like the Bard

The Shakespeare Insult Kit: Combine one word from each of the three columns below, prefaced with “Thou”  (example: thou spleeny knotty-pated malt-worm):


The Huffington Post published the 7 Best Shakespeare insults, of which this line from Lefeu in All’s Well That Ends Well is a perfect example:  “Methinks thou art a general offence, and every man should beat thee. I think thou wast created for men to breathe themselves upon you.”