Saturday, April 9, 2011

If Shakespeare Used Modern Slang...

I was just wondering, what if Shakespeare were alive and writing today?  He was only about twenty-four when he wrote his first play.  Do you think he’d use the modern lingo of teens and young adults?  Check out the meanings of these obsolete words from Shakespeare’s time and their modern slang counterparts.  I substituted slang into lines from his plays to try it on for size. 

Archaic:  ‘Sblood = by His (God’s) blood; this was preferred to taking God’s name in vain
Modern:  OMG (again, a way around blasphemy)
Example:  FALSTAFF: ‘Sblood, my lord, they are false! (from Henry IV)

               New FALSTAFF:  OMG, man, they are full of sh*t!

Archaic:  Fie! = an expression of dismay or disgust
Modern:  WTF!
Example:  NERISSA: Why, shall we turn to men?
                PORTIA: Fie, what a question’s that,
                                 If thou wert near a lewd interpreter?
                                  (from Merchant of Venice)

                 New NERISSA: So, we should cross-dress?
                 New PORTIA:  WTF?  What if some perv earjacked you?

Archaic:  Art = skill or talent in a particular field
Modern:  mad skills
Example: MIRANDA: If by your art, dearest Father, you have
               Put the waters in this roar, allay them. (from The Tempest)          

              New MIRANDA: Pops, if you caused this storm with your mad skills,  
              knock it off!

Archaic:  Ho! = an attention-getting device
Modern:  Yo!
Example:  IMOGEN:  Ho!  Who’s there?
                               If any thing that’s civil, speak; if savage,
                               Take or lend.  Ho! (from Cymbeline)

     New IMOGEN:  Yo! Who dat?
                               If you're cool, holla.  If you're trippin’,
                               Let’s work something out, yo!
Archaic:  Adieu = French word for “farewell”
Modern:  Laters, or Peace Out
Example:  JACQUES:  I’ll tarry no longer with you.  Farewell, good Signior
                ORLANDO: I’m glad of your departure.  Adieu, good Monsieur
                Melancholy.  (From As You Like It)

New JACQUES:  I’m wastin' my time with you.  Laters, Mister Whipped.
            New ORLANDO: Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.  Peace out, you

Archaic:  Hie! = hurry!
Modern:  Kick it in the ass, or step on it
Example:  LADY MACBETH:  Hie thee hither;
                                               That I may pour my spirits in thine ear
And chastise with the valor of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round. (from Macbeth)

      New LADY MACBETH: Kick it in the ass back home;
                                              I wanna get in your grill
                                              About why you’re too chicken to jack the crown
                                              and be Mac Daddy instead of Mac-beth.

Archaic:  Fordo = to harm, destroy, or kill
Modern:  Murk

Example:  KENT:  Your eldest daughters have foredone themselves (from King
                 New KENT: Your oldest daughters have murked themselves.

Archaic:  Avaunt! =  Get back, or go away
Modern:  Step off!
Example: ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE: Avaunt, thou witch! Come, Dromio,
                                                                     let us go. (from Comedy of Errors)

              New ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE: Step off, biatch! Let’s ripcord,

Archaic:  Cozened = tricked, cheated, or deceived
Modern:  Punked
Example:  DIANA:  Only in this disguise I think't no sin
                   To cozen him that would unjustly win. (from All’s Well that
                   Ends Well)       

     New DIANA: I don’t feel bad for frontin’,
                            He deserves to be punked for being such a player.
Archaic:  Vouchsafe = to grant or bestow
Modern:  Spot me some, hook me up
Example:  KING LEAR:  Do you but mark how this becomes the house!
                            Dear daughter, I confess that I am old;
                            Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
                            That you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.
                                                 (from King Lear)
New KING LEAR:   What kinda crib are you running?
         Girl, I may be olded, but so what?  I’m beggin’,
                                 Hook me up with some swag and some eats. 
                                 Let me crash here.

Okay, so my absurd examples lack Shakespeare’s poetry.  But Shakespeare loved playing with language and coining new words.  He appealed to the masses by using common phrases, jests and insults.  My guess is he would embrace our vernacular with enthusiasm, and even make it sound like music to our ears. 

For more fun with modern slang, check these sites:

(As a middle-aged woman, I had to ask myself, Who talks like this?  I welcome comments about these terms and phrases and how widely used they really are.  Please educate me, people.)

Here are some sites that can help with those pesky archaic terms in Shakespeare’s plays:

Did you know you can order versions of Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth in urban slang, adapted by Tonia Lee?  Also, check out Shakespeare’s Wordcraft by Scott Kaiser.  This is a fun little reference about The Bard’s word inventions and writing devices.  Don't forget Talk Like Shakespeare Day is April 23rd.  These references can help you brush up!

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