• To coin a phrase

    16 September 2019

    Shakespeare invented a plethora of words and phrases that have become part of our established, everyday lexicon --such as "All's well that ends well," "cold comfort," full circle," "something wicked this way comes," and a whole load more. Very few authors manage to come up with a new twist of letters that pass into the common language -- the vast majority of us work from the same verbal palette, and if we do occasionally invent a new word or phrase, it usually never sees life outside of the story in which it features. And that's fine -- for me, the aim of a writer should be to tell a good story, not expand the world's vocabulary -- that would be a strange aim indeed!

     

    Still, I'm sure the ghost of Will Shakespeare would be tickled pink by how his work has impacted on our language -- a nice bonus, after the plays and poems have thrilled and terrified and made us swoon or laugh.

     

    I won't ever hit those inventive, widely-used heights that the Bard reached, or even come anywhere close, but at least one of the phrases I've coined is enjoying life beyond the confines of my books and the circle of my readers. ("Even in death may you be triumphant" remains my most popular phrase, but I've never seen that used by anyone who isn't a Shanster. Perhaps it will seep through into the wider world one day, but hasn't so far.)

     

    That phrase was a title in my work, and it's one I'm sure you're all familiar with -- CIRQUE DU FREAK.

     

    Now, I can't say with 100% certainty that nobody had ever used those three words together before, but if they did, I never came across them, and as far as I'm aware I was the first to use them in this way. I didn't think much about it at the time -- it just seemed like the perfect title for the unusual little children's book that I started writing back in May 1997 -- but I've been seeing it crop up in all sorts of different places over the years, without any connection back to my books.

     

    The latest spotting was in an article about an upcoming Halloween Ball, in Ireland. It sounds like it's going to be good, creepy fun, and in among the descriptions you'll find a certain familiar line. https://journalofmusic.com/listing/17-08-19/danse-macabre-halloweens-monster-ball

     

    I feel a bit like a proud father -- I've sent my child out into the world, and occasionally reports like this prove that he's doing all right and thriving. :-)

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