The Phonics Plus Five Blog

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Can One Person Make a Difference?

The new film Swing Vote is designed to spread the optimistic message that "one person can make a difference." But we don't have to go along with the rather far-fetched story line to see that this message has validity.

In a recent biography of Shakespeare, Bill Bryson tells us that if we use the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as a guide, then we find that Shakespeare produced roughly one-tenth of all the most quotable utterances written or spoken in English since its inception." Imagine, a single individual is responsible for roughly 10% of the most quotable things ever said. it is, as Bryson says, "clearly remarkable."

Shakespeare's influence has become such a part of our lives that we don't even realize how much power he has. Just a small sampling of phrases originally found in Shakespeare's works include flesh and blood, bated breath, tower of strength, foul play, foregone conclusion, good riddance, dead as a doornail, fool's paradise, heart of gold, Greek to me, fancy-free, devil incarnate, one fell swoop, for goodness' sake, vanish into thin air, play fast and loose, eaten me out of house and home, elbow room, go down the primrose path, in a pickle, budge an inch, cold comfort, household word, full circle, salad days, in my heart of hearts, in my mind's eye, laughing stock, love is blind, lie low, naked truth, neither rhyme nor reason, star-crossed lovers, pitched battle, pound of flesh, sea change, make short shrift, spotless reputation, set my teeth on edge, there's the rub, too much of a good thing, what the dickens, and wild goose chase.

And "among the words first found in Shakespeare are abstemious, antipathy, critical, frugal, dwindle, extract, horrid, vast, hereditary, critical, excellent, eventful barefaced, assassination, lonely, leapfrog, indistinguishable, well-read, zany, and countless others (including countless)."

For anyone who loves language, Bryson's book is a marvelous, informative read. And if your children are past the early primary grades of school, you may find that they will be intrigued and stimulated by conversations on this topic. You can find out more at

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