Shakespeare’s False Friends 34: passport

passport (n.) ‘document authorizing foreign travel’ This word came to be increasingly used in its present-day meanings during the 16th century, as people increasingly travelled abroad. But Shakespeare uses the word differently. When Cerimon opens a chest washed up on shore and discovers Thaisa’s body, he exclaims ‘A passport too!’ (Pericles, III.ii.64). As Thaisa was […]

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Shakespeare’s False Friends 32: queasy

queasy (adjective) ‘unsettled, easily upset (especially of stomachs), uneasy, scrupulous (especially of consciences)’ We should think of Shakespeare whenever we feel nauseous, because Agrippa’s reference to Rome being ‘queasy’ with Antony’s insolence is the first recorded use of the modern sense (Antony and Cleopatra III.vi.20). There’s a similar use in Much Ado About Nothing, when […]

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Shakespeare’s False Friends 30: hope

hope (verb) ‘entertain a desired expectation’ Today’s strongly positive meaning dates from Anglo-Saxon times, but in the 13th century an alternative usage emerged which lacked the sense of desire, and this was still present in Shakespeare’s day. This new sense was more matter-of-fact, meaning ‘expect’ or ‘envisage’. Without being aware of it, we cannot make […]

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