Word of the Day: Kated
This word, which only occurs once in Shakespeare’s works, is a neologism, a new word invented by Shakespeare. Of course, it is far from being the only neologism in the bard’s works: we have Shakespeare to thank for the words “brittle”, “bump”, “countless”, “dwindle”, “eventful” and many more. “Kated”, though, is a rather special neologism since it is created from a proper noun, from Katherine, the shrew of The Taming of the Shrew. Thanks to the new Duchess of Cambridge, every British person and most of the world now knows, Kate is the familiar form of K/Catherine, and Shakespeare has taken this form, turning it first into a verb (to kate someone) before conjugating that verb as a past participle and inserting it into some banter between Kate’s sister, Bianca and her suitor, Gremio:
LUCENTIO Mistress, what’s your opinion of your sister?
BIANCA That, being mad herself, she’s madly mated.
GREMIO I wattant him, Petruchio is Kated.
This exchange occurs at the end of Act III, when Petruchio, declaring that Kate is “my good, my chattels … / My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything” takes off with his wife from their own marriage celebration, leaving Bianca and the others in some consternation behind them. Brian Morris, who edited the play in 1981, hears an echo of Much Ado About Nothing in the sentiment that “Petruchio is Kated”, imagining “Kate” to be taken as some kind of disease in the same way that Beatrice fears that Claudio has “caught the Benedick”. Another possibility, entirely of my own invention, is the similarity between ‘Kate’ and ‘cates’, the latter referring to a choice food or delicacy, with the punning sense here that Petruchio does not want a marriage feast, but would rather enjoy his Kate/cates elsewhere.
Either way, this single word is rich with meaning, and is perhaps best understood as a sly joke on the similarities between Kate and Petruchio, which ultimately lead to one of the warmest relationships in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. With this in mind, perhaps “kated” should, like some of the playwright’s better-known neologisms, take up its place in our everyday speech, describing the moment when someone meets their match in matrimony. Now is an apt time for such an undertaking: after all, an obvious example in 2011 would be “Prince William is Kated”.