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10 Times You’ve Quoted Shakespeare Without Realizing It

Saying that the great bard of Avon had a massive impact on the development of the English language is not an understatement. Apart from gracing the Earth with a great number of immortal plays and beautiful sonnets, the genius playwright also coined and popularized a number of new words in the English language and is certainly among the most quoted writers in history.
But William Shakespeare’s contribution to modern English didn’t end there. As a matter of fact, you may have made several references to the world's greatest dramatist in your lifetime without even realizing it, as many of the phrases he invented have become so widespread that they entered the general vocabulary. Here are 10 such wildly common phrases for which we should all thank Shakespeare!

1. Go on a wild goose chase

common phrases coined by Shakespeare Go on a wild goose chase
When you say that someone is on a wild goose chase, you mean that they're pursuing something unrealistic, unobtainable - a hopeless cause. But the original phrase has little to do with geese. Instead, it referred to a type of horse race where a lead horse is followed by other horses in a "V" formation, much like wild geese formations in the sky. 
The exact quote from Romeo and Juliet was uttered by Mercutio, and it goes as follows, "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?"

2. Break the ice

common phrases coined by Shakespeare Break the ice
Using any of these fun and surprising phrase origins stories in conversation may actually serve as a good ice breaker, aka conversation starter. The quotation first using this phrase in English is from The Taming of the Shrew, but it is actually a direct translation from the Greek philosopher Plutarch, whose works served as inspiration for Shakespeare's play.
Here's the actual quote, uttered by Tanio, "If it be so, sir, that you are the man must stead us all, and me amongst the rest, and if you break the ice and do this feat, achieve the elder, set the younger free for our access, whose hap shall be to have her will not so graceless be to be ingrate."

3. Seen better days

common phrases coined by Shakespeare Seen better days
The phrase "seen better days" appears on several occasions in Shakespeare's plays, and the quotation we're about to present is not the only example of it, as the phrase is also featured in "Timon of Athens". In "As You Like It", Duke Senior says the following words, "True is it that we have seen better days and have with holy bell been knolled to church, and sat at good men's feasts and wiped our eyes of drops that sacred pity hath engendered."

4. You can have too much of a good thing

common phrases coined by Shakespeare You can have too much of a good thing
You can certainly recall having said this phrase at least once in your lifetime, and statistics show that the vast majority of instances of "too much of a good thing" in the US are uttered right after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We are, of course, joking, but we should definitely thank Shakespeare for coming up with this clever phrase, helping us express all these emotions of regret in one neat phrase. The actual quote is said by Rosalind and it goes as follows, "Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing? - Come, sister, you shall be the priest and marry us. - Give me your hand, Orlando. - What do you say, sister?"

5. Fair play

common phrases coined by Shakespeare Fair play
Fair play is an important notion in sports and in life, as justice and equal treatment are essential in any society. And while the bard of Avon didn't come up with the notions underlying the phrase, he did coin the phrase itself when he wrote "Yes, for a score of kingdoms you should wrangle, and I would call it fair play."

6. Knock, knock! Who's there?

common phrases coined by Shakespeare Knock, Knock! Who's there?
Are you a fan of knock-knock jokes? If you answered with a resounding "Yes", then you must thank William Shakespeare for their very existence. In Macbeth, Porter utters the following words, "Knock, knock! Who's there, in th' other devil’s name?". If you suddenly found a new appreciation for the knock-knock joke genre, we're happy to share with you a collection of 100 Knock Knock Jokes right here: 100 Knock Knock Jokes!

7. Heart of gold

common phrases coined by Shakespeare heart of gold
We had a hunch that this phrase is older than Neil Young's 1972 hit pop song with the same name, but we had no idea it's over 400 years old! Alas, the great playwright's first mention of this very phrase is not without an ironic fleur, as in the scene Henry V disguises himself and hears Pistol, a swaggering soldier, utter the following words, "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," meaning that the king is subject to ridicule.

8. Kill with kindness

common phrases coined by Shakespeare Kill with kindness
Being excessive in anything is never good, and even treating someone with excessive kindness and trying to help too much and too often can end up causing discomfort or otherwise harming a person. In an attempt to tame the temperamental spirit of Katharina, her suitor and the protagonist in 'The Taming of the Shrew', Petruchio, tries exactly this approach, and utters, "This is a way to kill a wife with kindness, and thus I'll curb her mad and headstrong humor." 

9. It's Greek to me

common phrases coined by Shakespeare It's Greek to me
How do you communicate that you have no idea about a certain subject without admitting your own fault or hurting anyone else? Well, just saying "It's Greek to me!" may be one of the best approaches we can think of, and we're thankful to Shakespeare for inventing the useful phrase by writing, "Nay, an I tell you that, Ill ne'er look you i' the face again: but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me."

10. Love is blind

common phrases coined by Shakespeare Love is blind
When you see an unlikely couple on the streets, this phrase comes up almost instantly, doesn't it? Although it wasn't Shakespeare who coined the phrase "love is blind", as it also appears in Chauser's 'Merchant's Tale' that dates back all the way to 1405, we still have to thank Shakespeare for transforming it from an obscure phrase found in an old book to a phrase we all know and agree with! The famous quote by the bard of Avon goes as follows, "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."
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Images Source: BatyrAshirbayev98/ Wikimedia Commons (cropped)
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