Word of the Day: Lapwing

February 9, 2010 in News, Word of the Day

Better late than never, this week’s word is LAPWING.

The name given to a variety of species of crested plover, the lapwing is associated with forwardness and decisiveness (ironically) in Hamlet, based on the legend that the chick would burst out of their egg so quickly that the remained engrained on their head. As Horatio says of Osric,

This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head. (V.2)

It is also associated with deceit and treachery – an association which Shakespeare inherited from Chaucer’s description of the bird in The Parliament of Fowls – given its habit of luring other birds from their nests by flying past them. In Measure for Measure, the roguish Lucio admits to Isabella:

… ’tis my familiar sin,
with maids to seem the lapwing and to jest
tongue far from heart (I.4)

‘The lapwing cries tongue far from heart’ went on to become a proverb.

To see the plays that this week’s word is taken from, see Open Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Open Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.

And, if you want to volunteer a future word of the week, or get involved with Open Shakespeare more generally, click here.

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