Courtesy of William Shakespeare

Folger Shakespeare by DG Rosetti

Portrait of Shakespeare, ca. 1865 [FPm1 (Bd.w. PR2842 1709 copy 3 Ex.ill.). Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License]

In case you hadn’t heard, last Saturday, April 23, marked the four-hundredth anniversary (also known as the quadricentennial) of William Shakespeare’s death. There was much to-do about it in dramatic, literary, and historical circles, and for good reason: The English language, and humankind itself, owes a great debt to the Bard, whose influence persists more than four centuries after his plays hit the London stage.

The staggering scope of that influence is impossible to chronicle in a single blog post, so we’ll let Sir Ian McKellen—whose Shakespearean roles include Hamlet, Romeo, Macbeth, Richard III, Iago, King Lear, and Coriolanus—sum it up for us. Continue reading

The Queen’s English

If you’ve ever traveled across the Pond to the United Kingdom, you probably found yourself wondering, “Wait a second: I thought they spoke English here?” They do—but there’s a catch. Just as American English is rife with slang and colloquialisms that can baffle an outsider, so too is British English. So this week in the Bluestocking Salon we’re offering all you Anglophiles, travelers, and word-lovers a crash course in the more colorful side of “the Queen’s English.” Continue reading

On Word Aversion (Proceed with Caution!)

Language is a beautiful thing…except when it isn’t. Confused? Obviously you aren’t one of the more than three thousand members of the Facebook group “I HATE the word MOIST!” (Yes, this really exists.) While we think that’s a bit of an overreaction, we do understand. As ardent readers, Bas Bleu’s editors know how much power is packed into just a few linked letters. The order in which words are arranged on paper is important, of course. But individual words have flavors of their own, whether piquant, mellow, sweet, or sparkling. They can guide us to laughter, tears, and anxiety, fomenting sensations so acute we feel them physically as our eyes race across the page. So is it any wonder there are words in the English language that can inspire irrational loathing and disgust? Continue reading

Exquisite Corpse

May is National Short Story Month, so to celebrate, the Bluestocking Salon is hosting our first-ever game of Exquisite Corpse. For those of you not familiar with this party game, its roots can be traced to the Surrealist movement of early-twentieth-century France, when a group of poets devised it as an exercise in collective creativity. As the story goes, their game began with a single word written on a piece of paper, which was then folded and passed to the next player, who would add his own word (the rules dictated which part of the sentence—noun, verb, adjective, etc.—he was required to submit) without knowing which words preceded it. Allegedly, the inaugural game produced the final sentence, “le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau” or, ”the exquisite corpse will drink the young wine.” Hence the (awesome!) title.

Almost a century later, we thought it would be fun to try Exquisite Corpse as a collaborative story-writing game. Rather than working word by word to build an unseen sentence, we will provide an opening paragraph. It’s up to you, our readers, to add to the narrative thread with a short paragraph of your own.

There are a few rules:

  1. Entries should be no longer than one hundred words.
  2. Expand upon, rather than shut down the previous train of thought. Instead of using your installment to remind us of the laws of physics or the fact that squirrels cannot speak English, show us just how creative you can be!
  3. Don’t try to get in the last word. Your submission should leave the story open for others to contribute.
  4. This is a game. Have fun with it!

Please post your contribution in the comments section below, then check back with us at the end of the month for the complete story.

For those of you who would rather read (or listen to) short stories instead of write them, we’ve got you covered, too.

                                     

                                         

          

Let the game begin:

For Ella Stone, the anniversary of her birth was a terrible thing. Not because she feared age or wrinkles or writing stilted thank-you notes for gifts she did not want, but because of the cake. Vanilla, chocolate, carrot; what lay beneath the strokes of frosting mattered not. What mattered was the candle, driven like a stake through the heart of her year and needing only one breath to extinguish all she’d built in the preceding months. She feared that winking candle, its burning ember hot with promise, because every birthday wish Ella Stone had ever made came true.