Shakespeare wrote at a time when the English language was rapidly evolving. A common misconception is that Shakespeare's language is Old English. The Old English period roughly covers 450-1100. Middle English dates from about 1100 to 1500. Shakespeare wrote in Modern English, which dates from about 1500 to the present. So, yes, he is "speaking your language."

Shakespeare is credited with "coining"-or inventing-as many as 1500 words, most of which are still in use. He did this by adapting words (i.e. turning an existing noun into a verb, adding syllables to existing words, or creating compound words) or creating entirely new ones. In many cases, Shakespeare may have heard a word elsewhere, but since he was the first to use it print, he is credited with coining it.

Anyone can coin a new word, or neologism. As our culture evolves, so does the language. Words like "mallrats" and "email", expressions like "date rape" and "road rage", and slang words like "wack" and "homey" haven't been around forever. Many take the complexity and flexibility of the English language as an opportunity for fun. Comedian Rich Hall and his friends devised Sniglets, popularized in a series of humor books between 1984 and 1989. Hall defined a sniglet as "Any word that doesn't appear in the dictionary but should." Modern board games like Balderdash and game shows like National Public Radio's Says You also capitalize on making up words that sound real but aren't, even or especially when they are put alongside real, obscure words.

To get some idea of Shakespeare's impact on English, read Bernard Levin's summary of Shakespearean phrases-how many do you know or use?

If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise - why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I were dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness' sake! what the dickens! but me no buts - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.
(Bernard Levin. From The Story of English. Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil. Viking: 1986).

Click here to see other words created by Shakespeare.