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Topic: Shakespeare and "deck" of cards
Message: Posted by: Joshua Jay (Apr 20, 2010 04:47PM)
Hi everyone,

Jason England passed on an interesting tidbit from the playing card journal 52 plus 1...that Shakespeare coined the phrase "deck" of cards.

Can anyone help substantiate this? Any citations or further info on this claim? I would be most interested if the bard touched our vocabulary so directly. Thanks,

Joshua Jay
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Apr 20, 2010 07:00PM)
Henry IV - Part 3 (Act 5, Verse 1 or possibly 2)

"The king was slyly fingered from the deck." (or something like that)

The book "Folklore of Shakespeare" has a small section on references to games and playing cards in it.

(PS - I love falling Pips. I once got yelled at by a waiter at a function for making a mess.)
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Apr 21, 2010 06:05AM)
This would not surprise me in the least, as Shakespeare is the first published source of an astonishing number of expressions, phrases, and words. It has been estimated that as much as a fourth of his vocabulary found print in English for the first time. Part of this is surely a testament to what must have been an astonishingly large vocabulary of words in use in his day. But it would also be a good bet that he invented many new words.

So whether Shakespeare is simply recording the use of the term or inventing the use of the term is anyone's guess: that is, unless someone finds an earlier use of "deck" in print.

I'm curious as to how this fits in the Gambler's forum, however.
Message: Posted by: JasonEngland (Apr 21, 2010 07:26AM)

I believe that the word "deck" was in use before this particular citation. I think Billy's contribution was using it to refer to what had always been called a "pack" of cards up until that point.

As you pointed out though, he may have merely been the first to record the use of the word deck in this way, and not the actual inventor of the term.

Anyone with access to an Oxford English Dictionary (print or online version) should be able to look up the oldest known reference for the word deck to see how old it is. Whether or not Shakespeare is really the first to use the term to refer to playing cards can't be proven of course, only falsified, if and when someone finds an earlier reference.

Message: Posted by: AMcD (Apr 21, 2010 08:11AM)
In "The plays of William Shakespeare", vol. 10, written in 1793, we can read this (p. 371, author comment):

"A pack of cards was anciently term'd a deck of cards, or a pair of cards. It is ftill, as I am informed, fo called in Ireland. Thus, in K. Edward 1. 1599: " as it were, turned us, with duces and trays, out of the deck."

We know then that the word was in use and in print at least in 1599. But if it was "anciently" used, chances are great the term was here long before Shakespeare (believed born in 1564).
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Apr 21, 2010 09:48AM)

Anyone with access to an Oxford English Dictionary (print or online version) should be able to look up the oldest known reference for the word deck to see how old it is

Right. Here's the reference:

II. 5. a. ĎA pack of cards piled regularly on each otherí (J.); also the portion of the pack left, in some games, after the hands have been dealt. Since 17th c. dial. and in U.S.
1593 SHAKES. 3 Hen. VI, V. i. 44 But whiles he thought to steale the single Ten, The King was slyly finger'd from the Deck. 1594 ? GREENE Selimus Wks. 1881-3 XIV. 251 If I chance but once to get the decke, To deale about and shuffle as I would. 1594 BARNFIELD....

So the OED is showing the Shakespeare reference as the oldest known.
Message: Posted by: kcg5 (Apr 21, 2010 11:59AM)
Yeah, Bill was the man
Message: Posted by: Louis.P.M (Apr 22, 2010 06:39PM)
And in that time cards were so small that they were "finger'd"; not palmed.

Nice to read on some old time card cheating
Message: Posted by: Ms. Merizing (May 16, 2010 11:13PM)
Further to the definitive Oxford English Dictionary regarding "deck": the word is, "Not known before 16th century...then of recent adoption from Flemish or Low German". There are English uses of the word 'deck' prior to Shakespeare's Henry VI, but not in the sense of a deck of cards.

Certainly, Shakespeare was the first in print using 'deck' as applied to a pack of cards. As to Shakepeare first coining the phrase:deck of cards, that's a claim that's a tad more dodgy to substantiate.
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (May 17, 2010 12:48AM)
The average person has a working vocabulary of 5,000 words, and newspapers have a working vocabulary of about 10,000 words. Shakespeare had a vocabulary of more than 26 thousand words, and coined approximately 1700, including many popular modern uses such as gloomy and amazement.

He also mentioned the con game "Fast and Loose" four times in different plays ("Don't play Fast and Loose with a young girl's heart"), and the phrase came into our common usage to mean "reckless."

He also coined the word "shift" to replace the word "pass" that had been used by the earliest card cheats.
Message: Posted by: tommy (May 17, 2010 07:07AM)
Not to mention the exclusive coterie style in his stories. :)