Thursday, January 5, 2012

Two men walk into a Bar(d)...

Well, yesterday I intimated that Hemingway was a simpleton. A pox upon me. To make amends, I thought we’d stack him up against his flowery old nemesis, Faulkner, and measure them both against the greatest wordsmith of them all: William Shakespeare.

To do this, I’m pulling two passages from Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, both describing "languor," - one by Faulkner, the other by Hemingway- and plugging them into the Oxford Dictionaries’ “How Shakespearean Are You?” tool. You may be surprised, as I was, by the results:

"He did not still feel weak, he was merely luxuriating in that supremely gutful lassitude of convalescence in which time, hurry, doing, did not exist, the accumulating seconds and minutes and hours to which in his well state the body is slave both waking and sleeping, now reversed and time now the lip-server and mendicant to the body’s pleasure instead of the body thrall to time’s headlong course."        The tool's verdict: Your English is 84 percent Shakespearean. The waters of the Avon almost lap at your feet.
"Manuel drank his brandy. He felt sleepy himself. It was too hot to go out into the town. Besides there was nothing to do. He wanted to see Zurito. He would go to sleep while he waited."        The tool's verdict: Your English is 92 percent Shakespearean. Do you live at the Rose Theatre?

Who'd have thunk it? My own first paragraph up above grades out at an 80. Type your own text into the tool and tell us how Shakespearean you are.


  1. What formula does this tool use to measure how Shakespearean you are?

  2. "To produce this page we took the freely available text from our 1916 edition of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and processed it with a script that extracted all the unique words used in the plays. Your input is compared word-by-word with this list and a percentage correlation between the two is generated. No advanced techniques were used in processing the plays, so the Bard’s words have not been lemmatized and the list contains the names of all his characters.

    "In some cases you may notice some anomalous results, particularly when you cut and paste a passage of Shakespeare from the web and see a result that might only be 98% Shakespearean. These results can occur because sometimes text from other sources might be from a slightly different edit of the original play, or might contain special characters that this page might not understand. Please remember this is a bit of fun rather than a serious linguistic tool."