To the manner born

I have made the mistake of writing “to the manor born” a couple of times (even in front of a whole roomful of newspaper interns!), so I am very aware of this phrase: to the manner born. The phrase means that someone is accustomed from birth to do a certain thing. It comes from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” The Mavens’ Word of the Day quotes the play and discusses the “manor born” variant.

Isn’t it interesting how many phrases from Shakespeare are used in writing every day? I wonder if any writers today will have that impact. It seems unlikely because, for one thing, Shakespeare was a literate man in an age of illiteracy. He stood out. Nowadays, we have writers all over the place: on mass media, in books, on the Internet, on street corners literal and figurative. Shakespeare’s counterparts today might be in television commercials or in hip-hop and pop songs. That’s heresy to old geezers like me, of course. We can’t believe any current cultural phenomenon can be as lasting as Shakespeare or the King James Version of the Bible. Still, if you think of how many phrases we repeat from “Seinfeld,” perhaps we should consider that Larry David and the rest of those writers are like Shakespeare.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.