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To Blog In Boulder Or Not To Blog! From Shakespeare To Oxford To A Quill Pen

“To blog or Not To Blog.” How many of us can say the next line? I’m thinking most of us. How many? That is the question. Seriously, I cannot get that serious talking about William Shakespeare. Tonight’s Tale, campers, is about a Professor, a Madman, William Shakespeare and the English Language. And Mel Gibson.

The Oxford English Dictionary, the OED, had to be written. It did not spring from clean air and righteous living alone. The amazing book, The Professor And The Madman, tells the story about just how the OED was written.

Here’s a modernized summary of the great book.

Once upon a time, in 1867 in fact, a professor became clinically obsessive. He invented the 3″ x 5″ file card. With the help of a SMALL team of people, including a Madman, “crawled” every book in existence, Google-style. They were searching for words. EVERY word they could fine. ” The participants, including the Madman, shared the same method. Each would find and write one word at the top of a 3″ x 5″ card. On that card they would note where the word was first found,  the entire sentence in which the word was found,  date of publication, and more. They used a LOT of 3×5 cards.

William Shakespeare makes his entrance, to the story now, stage left.  The work on the OED began around 1880, searching down the origins of words, with accuracy prized to the point of astounding obsession.

The OED team learned that many words did not exist before William Shakespeare used them, and then they were used after he used them. The presumption is that he made up a lot of words. He was rather good at it.

Mel Gibson makes his entrance, stage right. Mel made a movie in which he plays Hamlet. Hamlet you’ll recall had trouble making decisions, like whether to be or not to be. And he was a whiner.

Mel as Hamlet is brilliant. He gets it, and can deliver it so that we get it. He has the syntax and delivery such that when he speaks it, it is easily understandable. I suspect he really understands the play sentence by sentence as if it was modern English.

So some guy in the 1580’s or so, makes up a lot of words and makes up some plays with characters that he made up. Those made up words became part of the greatest dictionary ever written until Wikipedia.

The plays were such huge hits that from the 1580’s to today and likely tomorrow we are still fascinated and entertained by his plays. Even by today’s standards, a run of about four hundred and forty four years is pretty good.  THEN, a guy name “Gibson, Mel” gets hired to play some made-up guy with a made up name, Hamlet. Mel made more on that movie than the author, Shakespeare made on all of his plays in his entire life. 39 plays are attributed to him. And he had to make it all up! Mel did not and could not improvise. He had to stick to script.a person holding a bottle                                  Head Shot, Mel Gibson   
SO a writer created a character and made up a lot of words. He wrote some plays. That resulted in a few people writing the Oxford English Dictionary from 1867 on. The First Edition of the OED had half a million words written down with one word on each 3″ x 5″ card. ! It took from 1867 to 1928 and a half million 3×5 cards to get that First Edition done

SO, with one guy’s made up words, immortalized in his plays, also made up, and another team of men and women writing down every word ever written, someone made a movie. Without 3″ x 5″ cards, Mel would be a poor man!

The moral of the story is that we should all have 3″ x 5″ cards, perhaps half a million of them, if we ever want to look up a word’s etymology. Or we can use Google. I’d use CHATgpt myself.

ME: “CHAT, what was essential to William Shakespeare’s writing?”  CHAT: “A quill.”

As a fascinating aside, I asked CHATgpt “what is the last word in the First Edition of the OED? You’ll love this. The last word in the First Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is “zyxt,” an obsolete Kentish dialect form of the verb “see.” You can’t make that stuff up. Imagine that word on a triple word score! Shakespeare wrote about 884,000 words.

So Mel Gibson’s fortune is all attributed to a quill pen and some ink.

I won’t tell you how Hamlet ends.  the play or the movie.

Lenny Lensworth Frieling

Shared Knowledge Is Power

Leonard Frieling Pen Of Justice Legal Blogger
  • Senior Counsel Emeritus to the Boulder Law firm Dolan + Zimmerman LLP : (720)-610-0951
  • Former Judge
  • Photographer of the Year, AboutBoulder 2023
  • First Chair and Originator of the Colorado Bar Association’s Cannabis Law Committee, a National first.
  • Previous Chair, Boulder Criminal Defense Bar (8 years)
  • Twice chair Executive Counsel, Colorado Bar Association Criminal Law Section
  • NORML Distinguished Counsel Circle
  • Life Member, NORML Legal Committee
  • Life Member, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar
  • Board Member Emeritus, Colorado NORML
  • Chair, Colorado NORML, 7 years including during the successful effort to legalize recreational pot in Colorado
  • Media work, including episodes of Fox’s Power of Attorney, well in excess of many hundreds media interviews, appearances, articles, and podcasts, including co-hosting Time For Hemp for two years.
  • Board member, Author, and Editor for Criminal Law Articles for the Colorado Lawyer, primary publication of the Colorado Bar Assoc. 7 Years, in addition to having 2 Colorado Lawyer cover photos, and numerous articles for the Colorado Lawyer monthly publication.
  • LEAP Speaker, multi-published author, University lectures Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Denver University Law School, Univ. of New Mexico, Las Vegas NM, and many other schools at all levels.
  • http://www.Lfrieling.com
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