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Perhaps you've seen collections of old words, words that have fallen out of use and become obscure. Unfortunately, a collection doesn't show usage.

This week we look at some of those now-antique words as used by the greatest wordmaster of all, Shakespeare.

cantle – a segment cut off or out of something; a part, piece or fragment

Thus, where the battle has gone badly:
quote:
The greater cantle of the world is lost
With very ignorance; we have kiss'd away
Kingdoms and provinces.
- Antony and Cleopatra, Act 3, Scene 10
I shall now retire to have a cantle of cake.
 
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Isn't a cantle also a part of a saddle? Is it the same etymology?
 
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The cantle is indeed the back part of a saddle; contrast the pommel, or saddle horn, in front.
 
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quote:
Yet such extenuation let me beg,
As, in reproof of many tales devised,
Which oft the ear of greatness needs must hear,
By smiling pickthanks and base news-mongers,
- King Henry IV, Part I, Act 3, Scene 2
pickthank – a sycophant, a yes-man (one who would steal your gratitude and pick a thank)

Our term 'yes-man' seem like weak watered ale, compared with Shakespeare's catalog of lusty terms for this unpleasant person.
quote:
Some carry-tale, some please-man, some slight zany,
Some mumble-news, some trencher-knight, some Dick,
- Love's Labour's Lost, Act 5, Scene 2
 
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foison – plenty; abundance; rich harvest
[from L. fusion, a pouring. Think of nature's gifts pouring, effusing from the horn of plenty.]

Ceres sings of a bounteous harvest:
quote:
Earth's increase, foison plenty,
Barns and garners never empty,
Vines and clustering bunches growing,
Plants with goodly burthen bowing;
Spring come to you at the farthest
In the very end of harvest!
Scarcity and want shall shun you;
Ceres' blessing so is on you.
-The Tempest Act 4, Scene 1
Earlier, Gonzalo had told how he would run the island:
quote:
Had I plantation of this isle, my lord,-- ...
All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavour: treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine,
Would I not have; but nature should bring forth,
Of its own kind, all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.
-The Tempest Act 2, Scene 1
 
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lenity – leniency; mercifulness due to being lenient or tolerant.
(implies mildness, gentleness, and tendency to reduce punishment)
Shakespeare, understanding humankind, created characters who had differing views of lenity.
quote:
My gracious liege, this too much lenity
And harmful pity must be laid aside.
To whom do lions cast their gentle looks?
Not to the beast that would usurp their den.
- King Henry VI, Part iii, Act 2, Scene 2

A little more lenity to lechery would do no harm in
him: something too crabbed that way, friar.
- Measure for Measure, Act 3, Scene 2

for when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the
gentler gamester is the soonest winner.
- King Henry V, Act 3, Scene 6

Be merciful, great duke, to men of mould.
Abate thy rage, abate thy manly rage,
Abate thy rage, great duke!
Good bawcock, bate thy rage; use lenity, sweet chuck!
- King Henry V, Act 3, Scene 2
Bonus words:
bawcock
– a fine fellow (term of endearment)
chuck – term of endearment (literally 'a chicken'). More on 'chuck' tomorrow.
 
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How ironic that villainess Lady Macbeth's (pink) husband (blue) treats her as if she were some fragile feminine flower.
quote:
. . . . . . . .there shall be done
A deed of dreadful note.

What's to be done?
Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,
Till thou applaud the deed. Come, seeling night,
Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day

- Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 2
chuck – term of endearment (literally 'a chicken')
seel – (not a typo for "seal") to stitch shut the eyes of a falcon
[Latin cilium lower eyelid]
quote:
But when we in our viciousness grow hard—
O misery on't!--the wise gods seel our eyes;
In our own filth drop our clear judgments; make us
Adore our errors; laugh at's, while we strut
To our confusion.
- Antony and Cleopatra, Act 3, Scene 13
 
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runagate – a runaway, outcast or fugitive.

Romeo flees after killing Tybalt. Lady Capulet plots her revenge.
quote:
Then weep no more. I'll send to one in Mantua,
Where that same banish'd runagate doth live, ...
That he shall soon keep Tybalt company:
And then, I hope, thou wilt be satisfied.
- Romeo and Juliet, Act III. Scene V.
The term was 'rennegate' (from the same root as negate), meaning one who denies; an apostate. But then, perhaps from the sounds of 'run' and 'gait', it came to its Shakespearean meaning.

'Renege' changed similarly. To us it means merely "failure to fulfill a promise, or to follow suit in cards when able to do so". To Shakespeare it meant "to desert or renounce".
quote:
Such smiling rogues as these, ... / Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks / With every gale and vary of their masters, / Knowing nought, like dogs, but following.
- King Lear, Act 2, Scene 2

Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 1, as to his doting on her:
Nay, but this dotage of our general's / O'erflows the measure: ... his captain's heart, / ... reneges all temper, / And is become the bellows and the fan / To cool a gipsy's lust.
 
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Juliet has a fascinating response to Lady Capulet's above speech about having Romeo killed. Juliet's words are craftily ambiguous: Lady Capulet can believe that Juliet agrees with her, but the audience knows better. Altogether, a clever piece of writing.
quote:
Indeed, I never shall be satisfied
With Romeo, till I behold him — dead —
Is my poor heart so for a kinsman vex’d:
Madam, if you could find out but a man
To bear a poison, I would temper it,
That Romeo should, upon receipt thereof,
Soon sleep in quiet. O! how my heart abhors
To hear him nam’d, and cannot come to him,
To wreak the love I bore my cousin Tybalt
Upon his body that hath slaughter’d him.
 
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Two words today. The first is reminiscent of our previous word fleer.

gleek – to make sport; to gibe; to sneer (noun: a jest or scoff; a trick or deception); also, to spend time idly.

gall – 1. to scoff, jeer 2. to fret, vex: to be galled by sarcasm 3. to injure, harass, annoy: In our wars against the French of old, we used to gall them with our longbows, at a greater distance than they could shoot their arrows. – Addison
quote:
Go, go; you are a counterfeit cowardly knave. Will you mock at an ancient tradition, begun upon an honourable respect, and worn as a memorable trophy of predeceased valour and dare not avouch in your deeds any of your words? I have seen you gleeking and galling at this gentleman twice or thrice. You thought, because he could not speak English in the native garb, he could not therefore handle an English cudgel: you find it otherwise; and henceforth let a Welsh correction teach you a good English condition. Fare ye well.
- King Henry V Act 5, Scene 1
 
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Interesting. When people say, "That takes a lot of 'gall'," are they using it wrong?

I wonder if "gall" bladder got its name from the "bitterness" definition of "gall."
 
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Wordcrafter gives only three definitions of gall. OneLookgives a much more complete set of definitions:
noun: abnormal swelling of plant tissue caused by insects or microorganisms or injury
noun: a skin sore caused by chafing
noun: the trait of being rude and impertinent; inclined to take liberties
noun: a digestive juice secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder; aids in the digestion of fats
noun: an open sore on the back of a horse caused by ill-fitting or badly adjusted saddle
noun: a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
verb: irritate or vex (Example: "It galls me that we lost the suit")
verb: become or make sore by or as if by rubbing


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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