Oh. Me. Oh. My. To Blog or not to Blog. Can you tell I’m listening to Hamlet?

The #15secondShakespeare spurt on Twitter last week was utterly fascinating. First of all, Karen Gillan.

Her eye contact and breathless voice made it convincing enough, but the du-dum-dum-dum at the end finished it off. We simply never know, with Shakespeare, whether or not he is using real words or words he made up. The internet is full of pages of ‘How To Speak Like Shakespeare‘ and English / Drama teachers up and down the land thrust pages of Shakespearean insults into their students’ hands with glee, year in, year out.

Last weekend I took my family to Norwich to watch Bill, the new film offering from the team behind Horrible Histories. If you have kids and you haven’t watched HH yet, please do, then pop back to say thank you. You’re welcome. The team write pithy, sarcastic and topical jokes into historical stories, match them with some fantastic cover version-style songs and frankly teach us all something new every time they’re on the screen. The film was great fun. A true family film with enough ‘adult’ jokes to keep us giggling while the kids loved the action and plot. One of the great observations was how Shakespeare’s comedies are basically ‘a series of funny misunderstandings’, which provided a fantastic musical number. This is so true. Look through the fluffy language and bizarre characters and you’ll find some very similar plot threads. Boy meets girl in wrong place / time / outfit / state of health / under spell / married to someone else / in wrong family type thing. This reminded me of a stupendous book I read whilst at college, Seven Basic Plots. I thoroughly recommend this, although its a huge book its worth trawling through it.

Nest let’s look at Nadia Wadia‘s video. That stillness of face and body but still projecting the voice is often seen as very Shakespearean, although truthfully the actions in his day might have been much bigger and bolder, with no amplification save the shape of the theatre, an audience filled with prostitutes and pie-sellers to bellow over, people weeing in the corner to avoid paying their penny twice (so spending a penny in the theatre – ha! ha!), with the royal family potentially in the audience ready to cut off your head if they don’t like the play! Nowadays we have microphones and better insulation and generally people sit quietly in the audience. On comfy seats.

Can we apply these ‘Shakespearean’ thoughts to our every day speaking? If we want to be dramatic, keeping a stillness about ourselves can help. Try keeping your eyes on one point, your face quite still, leave longer between sentences and phrases to build tension. Save your smiles. Push the sounds forward and project them out with passion.

Gosh, it must be lunchtime – I’m Hank Marvin!

Have a lovely day and week everyone – see you soon!

Just like riding a horse… or a bicycle…

I may well be mixing my metaphors, but I feel nervous blogging again.

I have had a truly lovely summer with my family, filled with festivals, trips in the camper van and long days in the sun. The garden is developing nicely and we had a great crop of runner beans, tomatoes, chillies and strawberries.

Now the autumn closes in around us and we draw our curtains earlier. I have been enjoying listening to No Such Thing As A Fish podcast as I run or as I carry out my household tasks. It made me think about some phrases we use without thinking about it, some terribly English things to say.

  1. Above Board. This hails from card playing. If your hands are ‘above the board’ or above the table, you cannot be playing tricks or concealing cards. In a contemporary sense we might say ‘everything this company does is above board and will remain so’, meaning that the company’s dealings are legitimate. The first ‘a’ is pronounced as the schwa sound, so sounds like uhbuhv-bawrd.
  2. Bee’s knees. I love this phrase. Today it means something utterly brilliant, although if we think about it, bee’s knees must be incredibly tiny, if indeed they even have them! Apparently these phrases were all the rage in the 1920s, especially in America and this one has hung around longer. Other, slightly more bizarre examples include flea’s eyebrows and canary’s tusks! Think abut the deliciously long ‘ee’ sound in both of these words and lean on it, following the ‘ee’ with the buzzing ‘s’ sound, as opposed to the hissing ‘s’.
  3. Beat about the bush. This is all about avoiding the issue. This time of year beaters are everywhere in rural areas. They beat the undergrowth with sticks and make all the wildfowl fly into the air. Then the people with the guns can shoot them in the air. So the beaters never get the satisfaction of shooting, hence the term, they don’t complete the task. Synonyms include prevaricate, quibble, hedge, stall and shilly-shally.

How many more do you know?

Buzzfeed list on this topic

Use this site for reference too

A similar list on Grammarly