wordy wednesday

Wordy Wednesday – “Neither rhyme nor reason”

‘I got my rhyme on my reason and my reason on my rhyme’…sounds like the start of a hit by rap duo, Rhyme2Reason 😎

The two nouns are synonymous with each other:

  • ‘Rhyme’ refers to a set structure, poetic metre, a correspondence between words.
  • ‘Reason’ is clarity, a logical cause, an explanation for an event.

So to have neither rhyme nor reason is to have no common sense.

The phrase occurs twice in Shakespeare’s works. First in The Comedy of Errors (1590), when Dromio tries to take the ease off his master’s scolding:

Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?


And later in As You Like It (1600), as Orlando professes his love for Rosalind (who is disguised in the scene):

ROSALIND: But are you so much in love as your rhymes speak?
ORLANDO: Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much.


In both cases, the phrase is used to express a situation that’s inexpressible. But the tone in HOW it is uttered, differs. Check it out…

Dromio mentions ‘neither rhyme nor reason’ to convey the meaningless use of the words, ‘why’ and ‘wherefore’. He utters it in a sarcastic tone to reveal an unintelligent situation. But Orlando utters ‘neither rhyme nor reason’ to express a love that transcends mere words. His tone is more uplifting, and shows that the emotion of love is beyond intelligent structure and logic.

While Shakespeare popularized the phrase, its origins can be traced before The Bard’s time. ‘Neither rhyme nor reason’ stems from the French term, Na Ryme ne Raison, with its earliest English usage coming from sources including:

  • John Russell – The Boke of Nurture, 1460 (‘As for ryme or reson, ye forewryter was not to blame…’).
  • Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) – The English writer utters the term while critiquing an author’s manuscript (‘Now it is somewhat, for now it is rhyme; whereas before it was neither rhyme nor reason.’)

By: Vineeta Moraes

Rhyme nor Reason – http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/301500.html
Oxford English Dictionary – http://www.oed.com/
The Concise Dictionary of English Etymology  – George Latimer Apperson and Martin H. Manser
Common Phrases: And Where They Come From – Myron Korach and John Mordock


Wordy Wednesday – “Primrose path”


In Hamlet, Laertes, leaving for France, tells his sister Ophelia to guard her heart against Hamlet.   Laertes suggests that Hamlet’s affections are “Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, / The perfume and suppliance of a minute; no more.”


I shall the effect of this good lesson keep,
As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.

The primrose is a flowering plant of over 400 species, bearing blue, pink, purple, red, white, or yellow blossoms.

Here, Shakespeare’s “primrose path” is the path of ease, indulgence, and pleasure.  Ophelia not only listens to Laertes, but also challenges him to heed his own advice.  Primroses are perennial though, in this context, they represent fickleness – perhaps “perennial” frivolity?

There are six more references to primroses in Shakespeare’s plays:



So, so: well done, well done:
The violets, cowslips, and the primroses,
Bear to my closet.


Whilst summer lasts and I live here, Fidele,
I’ll sweeten thy sad grave: thou shalt not lack
The flower that’s like thy face, pale primrose

Henry VI, Part II


I would be blind with weeping, sick with groans,
Look pale as primrose with blood-drinking sighs,
And all to have the noble duke alive.



I’ll devil-porter
it no further: I had thought to have let in
some of all professions that go the primrose
way to the everlasting bonfire.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream


And in the wood, where often you and I
Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie,
Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,
There my Lysander and myself shall meet…

The Winter’s Tale


…pale primroses
That die unmarried, ere they can behold
Bight Phoebus in his strength…

By Vineeta Moraes and Laboni Islam


“Primrose.”  Encyclopedia Britannica
Image:  Sloat Garden Center

Wordy Wednesday – “Crack of doom”

Today’s Wordy Wednesday is a phrase of grand, earth-shattering proportions.

Behold the CRACK OF DOOM. DOOOOOOM. Isn’t it just an awesome phrase to say out loud?

The phrase stems from the biblical concept of the Day of Judgment – the moment when God passes on final judgment over all nations, with trumpet blasts signaling the end of the world. In connection with ‘Crack of Doom’:

  • Crack: refers to a sharp noise, like the sound of a trumpet. It can also refer to the crack that separates the earthly world from the non-earthly one.
  • Doom: synonymous term for the Day of Judgement (Doomsday).

Shakespeare coins the phrase in Macbeth (IV. i. 112-117), when Macbeth reacts to the prophecies of the three witches:

MACBETH: Thou art too like the spirit of Banquo: down!
Thy crown does sear mine eye-balls. And thy hair,
Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first.
A third is like the former. Filthy hags!
Why do you show me this? A fourth! Start, eyes!
What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?

To his despair, the witches reveal that Banquo (a threat to Macbeth’s royal lineage) will start a line of kingship so far that – Macbeth exaggerates – will extend to the ‘crack of doom’. He uses the phrase in a temporal sense to affirm his suspicions of Banquo’s line taking over, and even better, going on till the end of time. Nothing says rage and revenge like a good ‘ole session of over-thinking. And Macbeth does it like a pro.

Other references to the phrase are also found in a few of Shakespeare’s sonnets, such as Sonnet 116 – ‘Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom.’ And Sonnet 55 – ‘Your praise shall still find room even in the eyes of all posterity that wear this world out to the ending doom.’

Besides Shakespeare, the other well-known mention of the phrase occurs in the literary world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. In The Lord of the Rings, the Cracks of Doom are not temporal but actual, physical cracks and fissures inside the great volcano of Orodruin, also called Mount Doom.

Even though Shakespeare and Tolkien don’t explicitly mention the Day of Judgment event, they use its imagery of large-scale finality and catastrophe to heighten their own characters’ struggles – from Macbeth’s all-encompassing fears over the witches’ prophecies, to Frodo’s ultimate decision to throw the One Ring into the cracks of Mount Doom.

Photo and blog post by: Vineeta Moraes


Martin, Gary. “The crack of doom.” The Phrase Finder. Web. 28 Nov 2012. <http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/103950.html&gt;

“Cracks of Doom.” Tolkien Gateway. Web. 28 Nov 2012. <http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Cracks_of_Doom&gt;

Oxford English Dictionary. Web. 28 Nov 2012. <http://www.oed.com&gt;

Wordy Wednesday – “To thine own self be true…”

Hello lovely readers, welcome to another edition of Wordy Wednesday.  We have for you today a quote from Hamlet.

Before we jump to it, for those who have not read the play or need a refresher, let’s consider the context.

The quote is from Act I, Scene iii.  The scene involves Ophelia and her brother Laertes. Lord Polonius is their father; in the following quote he speaks to Laertes:


Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

To thine own self be true” is still used today in movies and television shows. Trekkies, in The Next Generation, the famous line is used in episode Hide and Q.  Not a Star Trek fan? Fear not, it is also used in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, episode Voice From the Past. It’s also in Roseanne, episode Mothers and Other Strangers.

Some television shows have “to thine own self be true” as the title of the episode.  Examples include: season 2, episode 10 of 90210; season 22, episode 31 of Casualty;  and season 2, episode 17 of Make It or Break It.

Still relevant today, am I right?  With movies, the list continues:

1994- Renaissance Man

1995- Clueless (Yes. Clueless.)

1996- The Last of the High Kings

1998- The Last Days of Disco

2007- I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

I’m sure there are many more out there.  Which ones are your favourites?  What would you add to my list?

Adieu for now and to “thine own self be true”

By Ingrid Pleitez

Wordy Wednesday – “Kill with kindness”


“Another way I have to man my haggard,
To make her come, and know her keeper’s call,
That is, to watch her, as we watch these kites
That bate and beat, and will not be obedient. 

This is a way to 
kill a wife with kindness,
And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humour.
He that knows better how to tame a shrew,
Now let him speak; ’tis charity to show.” 

-William Shakespeare (1564-1616)


“You’ve gotta be

Cruel to be kind in the right measure,
Cruel to be kind, it’s a very good sign.
Cruel to be kind means that I love you,
Baby, you’ve gotta be cruel to be kind…”
-Nick Lowe (1949-)


The first quote comes from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, which is considered a “problem play” – it’s structured like a comedy, but the ‘happy ending’ we are led towards is a fierce, independent woman being tortured and ‘tamed’ by her husband in an arranged marriage. In this scene, the husband (Petruchio) describes starving his wife and depriving her of sleep until she is too broken down to resist him. The ‘kindness’ should be read very ironically; he does everything but beat her into submission.

If this is an inherently amusing idea to you, I’d love to ask you about the time machine you clearly rode here from another century.

The second quote comes from a modern(ish) pop song and is there because, funnily enough, however, when people refer to ‘killing someone with kindness’ nowadays the meaning is drastically different. Rather than constantly spying upon someone and controlling them, ‘killing someone with kindness’ refers to being extraordinarily generous and flattering towards them.

The idea is to be so unrealistically nice to the person that they get sceptical and start to wonder what you’re up to. It can be hard to shake our cultural cliche that there’s no compliment or benefit without a catch. The ‘kill’ part of ‘kill with kindness’ comes from making that suspicious person lose their mind with paranoia, waiting to figure out a ‘hidden agenda’ that never actually shows up.

We shouldn’t feel too bad about our society though; in Shakespeare’s day Petruchio is considered a hero who ‘wins’ by making his wife “asham’d that women are so simple / To offer war where they should kneel for peace” (V.ii.2669-70). Our society may be cynical and suspicious, but at least its women have made some strides towards being allowed by society to defend their own corner – so that they don’t have to feel like they’re being killed anyway, with kindness or without.

–David Windrim

Wordy Wednesday – “I’ll not budge an inch…”

In the Prologue to Taming of the Shrew, a drunken Christopher Sly loiters outside a tavern.

He has broken some glasses and the Hostess demands that he pay for the damage.

Sly refuses to pay and the Hostess leaves to search for a policeman.  Sly calls after her:

I’ll answer him by law: I’ll not budge an inch, boy: let him come, and kindly.

When someone refuses to budge an inch, he or she refuses to move physically or mentally (i.e. to change his or her opinion).  Sly falls asleep on the spot so, in this case, he won’t budge an inch in any way whatsoever!

Wordy Wednesday – “That way madness lies”

In Act III.iv of King Lear, Lear, Kent, and the Fool find themselves on a heath before a hovel.  It is stormy.  Kent urges Lear to enter the derelict little dwelling, believing that the “tyranny of the open night’s too rough / For nature to endure.”   Lear refuses to enter:

Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin: so ’tis to thee;
But where the greater malady is fix’d,
The lesser is scarce felt. Thou’ldst shun a bear;
But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea,
Thou’ldst meet the bear i’ the mouth. When the mind’s free,
The body’s delicate: the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to’t? But I will punish home:
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.
In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,–
O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.

Have you ever been really upset?  So upset that you can’t stop thinking about the distressing situation?

King Lear feels that the greatest storm is in his mind, in his ruminations.  He argues that one would not run away from a bear only to run towards a raging sea.  Similarly, Lear would not run away from an outdoor storm only to “run towards” an “indoor storm” – that is, the madness within.  He does not want to lose his mind.

Instead, Lear hopes that nature’s storm will distract him from his tempestuous thoughts, thoughts about how Regan and Goneril betrayed him.

Image from ClipArt ETC.