Friday, October 5, 2012

Sharking up

A phrasal verb has caught my eye and imagination: to shark up. In the first scene of Hamlet, Horatio reports that young Fortinbras has “Sharked up a list of lawless resolutes,” a band of desperados. The Oxford English Dictionary explains: “to collect hastily (a body of persons, etc.) without regard to selection.” The New Penguin Shakespeare text that I have at hand suggests that to shark up might be meant to suggest a shark “seizing its prey at haphazard.” The expression appears to originate with Shakespeare; the OED cites texts from 1827 and 1900 that echo the line I’ve quoted.

Clearly, the time has come to revive this phrasal verb. One might describe any quick and undiscriminating effort as a matter of sharking up. Put together an hour of music by pulling out ten random recordings: you’ve sharked up a radio show. Toss some arbitrarily chosen sources into a piece of writing (for a teacher who requires, say, the magical “five sources”): you’ve sharked up a Works Cited list. It’s better though to work hard, choose carefully, and not shark things up.

comments: 3

Stefan said...

What a great suggestion! It's one of my favorite lines in the play (though my students might say that I say that about nearly every line), so here's my vow to add "sharked up" to my everyday vocabulary, as in: "You haven't really written a paragraph. You've only sharked up a bunch of quotations and stapled them together."

Michael Leddy said...

A hit, a very palpable hit.

Anonymous said...

Every so often I read Hamlet. I find it utterly strange... menacing, maddening, brutal. Unspeakably beautiful. I am as uneasy before it as I am standing before the ocean. Its unfathomable mystery is oppressive, and like the ocean, seething, vast, limitless, it threatens to swallow one whole.