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Monday, 29 October 2012

Definately indefinite

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29 October

I cannot claim to have read every word written by William Shakespeare, or even every play acknowledged to be his (or to have his hand in it), but I do not recollect the word definitely.

Easily enough remedied, as I have two nineteenth-century concordances upstairs, but my suspicion is that, although the word definite might just about have been Jacobean, the longer word came later...

But, with editions of Shakespeare that very often harmonize and modernize his spellings, since it is notorious that there is scarcely a pair of his signatures that are the same or where he even spells his name consistently, it is hard to know what - if he ever wrote the word - he would have written.

Would it stand as definate and definately? At the moment, I can definitively say that Shakespeare did / did not use the words...

Bartlett's The Shakespeare Phrase-Book does not list either word, but it - and the other one - is of a non-exhaustive kind, unlike more modern ones.

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