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If you want to speak the English language like a true descendent of Shakespeare - or of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf... - look no further. In the third instalment of our series on idiomatic English, we ask what would happen if Shakespeare turned up out of the blue (i.e. suddenly, unexpectedly) in modern England.

out of the blue {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/out_of_the_blue.mp3{/audio}

green with envy {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/green_with_envy.mp3{/audio}

the green-eyed monster {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/the_green_eyed_monster.mp3{/audio}

blacken a reputation {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/blacken_a_reputation.mp3{/audio}

golden opportunity {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/golden_opportunity.mp3{/audio}

yellow press {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/yellow_press.mp3{/audio}

red tops {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/red_tops.mp3{/audio}

caught red-handed {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/caught_redhanded.mp3{/audio}

red-light district {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/red_light_district.mp3{/audio}

black-listed {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/blacklisted.mp3{/audio}

grey matter {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/grey_matter.mp3{/audio}

grey area {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/grey_area.mp3{/audio}

bluestocking {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/bluestocking.mp3{/audio}

green light {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/green_light.mp3{/audio}

red tape {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/red_tape.mp3{/audio}

feel blue {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/feel_blue.mp3{/audio}

white elephant {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/white_elephant.mp3{/audio}

see red {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/see_red.mp3{/audio}

colourful language {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/colourful_language.mp3{/audio}

black eye {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/black_eye.mp3{/audio}

golden age {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/golden_age.mp3{/audio}

white lies {audio}HEART/issue7/found_mp3/white_lies.mp3{/audio}

Many people have knowingly remarked that if Shakespeare were alive today, he'd be writing for television - so many, in fact, that the phrase has become quite a cliché. But I wonder how easily the "bard" would take to the perils of the modern media world.

Imagine that Shakespeare was magically transported into modern Britain. True, if he were confronted with the writers of Coronation Street or Eastenders, he might gain some satisfaction from telling them that he was green with envy that they'd landed such impressive jobs. After all, Shakespeare was the one who apparently first called jealousy the green-eyed monster in Othello.

He might go on to blacken (besmirch) the reputations of our current TV writers in order to win a golden opportunity (a great chance) for himself - perhaps he would suggest to the yellow press (the tabloid newspapers), also known as the red tops, that his colleagues had been caught red-handed (caught in the act) in a red-light district (the area of town frequented by prostitutes)? And once they'd been black-listed, the field would be clear for Will Shakespeare to reveal his ground-breaking new soaps and innovative prime-time dramas.

But would Shakespeare be prepared to use his grey matter (his brain) to work out what his new bosses meant by a grey area (uncertain zone), a bluestocking (feminist) or a green light (go-ahead, as in "give the green light")? Or would he simply get bogged down in red-tape (bureaucracy) and begin to feel blue (feel depressed) in his new surroundings? After all, Shakespeare might end up being a bit of a white elephant for the TV magnates - being the greatest British writer of all time, he'd probably demand extremely large royalties, but his work would be somewhat melodramatic and rather derivative - leading critics to ask, "Haven't we seen that balcony scene somewhere before?"

Maybe he'd eventually see red (get angry) when his BBC boss criticised his colourful language (swearing). After declaiming his most famous Hamlet speech, perhaps he'd give the producer a black eye (i.e., punch him in the eye) before travelling back in time to the golden age of British theatre, where he'd tell a few white lies (harmless falsehoods) to Elizabeth I to explain his absence. And really, who could blame him?

shakespeare
Photo: Artist John Taylor, copyright free
Shakespeare pondering his next soap
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