Posted by: Jack Henry | December 19, 2016

Editor’s Corner: The 12 Days of English – Day 8

On the eighth day of English

My true love gave to me

Eight phrases from the Bard

And a bit about what they mean.

From The Phrase Finder:




A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

What matters is what something is, not what it is called.

Romeo and Juliet, 1600

All that glitters is not gold

Not everything that is shiny and superficially attractive is valuable.

The Merchant of Venice, 1596

The original form of this phrase was ‘all that glisters is not gold’. The ‘glitters’ version long ago superseded the original and is now almost universally used.

All of a sudden


‘All of a sudden’ sounds like the kind of poetic version of ‘suddenly’ that would do justice to Shakespeare. In fact, that’s what Shakespeare thought too, as it was he who coined the phrase in The Taming of the Shrew.

Salad days

The days of one’s youthful inexperience.

Anthony and Cleopatra, 1606

CLEOPATRA: My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.

Green-eyed monster


Used in The Merchant of Venice and Othello.

Green is a color associated with sickness, possibly because people’s skin sometimes takes on a slightly yellow/green tinge when they are seriously ill. Green is also the color of many unripe foods that cause stomach pains.

I will wear my heart upon my sleeve

Display your feelings openly, for all to see.

From Shakespeare’s Othello, 1604:

Makes your hair stand on end

Something frightening.

This is first found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602:

"I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand an end, like quills upon the fretful porpentine."

Like the dickens

A lot; as in ‘hurts like the dickens’.

This phrase has nothing to do with Charles Dickens. Dickens is a euphemism, specifically a minced-oath, for the word devil, possibly via devilkins. Shakespeare used it in The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1600:

I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of.

Kara Church

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