Word for Wednesday: Bard

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Had he had access to the elixir of life, William Shakespeare would have been 450 years old today. However it was (to be or) not to be...

Known as 'The Bard' his popularity today remains immense and to illustrate this he was recently voted to be the UK's greatest cultural icon in an international survey conducted by the British Council.

Where does the word bard originate?

Of Celtic origin, it was a derogatory term for an itinerant musician or poet (the Scottish Gaelic 'bardos', Irish 'bard' and Welsh 'bardd') who recited verses about the exploits of their clansmen. It eventually became the word to be associated with any poet who wrote verse of a heroic nature or of national importance.

The word has other meanings. From the Old French 'barde', the Old Italian 'barda' and the Arabic 'barda'ah', bards are pieces of armour used to protect horses. Ironically Shakespeare loved horses with many references to them in his plays including the famous quote from Richard III: "A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!"

In the culinary world, a bard is a thin slice of fat or bacon secured to a roast to prevent its drying out while cooking. Food and drink quotes were also used by Shakespeare often as metaphors, including one of my favourites from Romeo and Juliet: "Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers."

I wonder if Shakespeare will be an international favourite in another 450 years time?

Now that is the question...

Barry Perks

Sources: https://www.thefreedictionary.com, https://www.etymonline.com,and https://nosweatshakespeare.com

23 Apr 2014
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