Fantastic

31st January 2003 at 00:00
Fantastic (adjective) "good beyond expectation"

The modern sense dates only from the 1930s. Earlier senses, from the 14th century, focused on the notion of "fantasy". At first, it referred to things "existing only in the imagination", as when Bolingbroke talks of "thinking on fantastic summer's heat" (Richard II, I.iii.299). Then it was applied to what was imaginative or fanciful (Ophelia's "fantastic garlands", Hamlet, IV.vii.168), or to people who behaved in an extravagant way. "To be fantastic may become a youth," says Julia to Lucetta (Two Gentlemen of Verona, II.vii.47). It is a short step from here to "dressed in a fanciful way". When we see Lucio in the character-list of Measure for Measure described as "a Fantastic", it means he is a showy dresser. The "fanciful" sense is also in the adverb use: "Enter Lear fantastically dressed with wild flowers" (King Lear, IV.vi.80). The line is not an accolade about Lear's costume: the gloss is "grotesquely".

David Crystal is author, with Ben Crystal, of Shakespeare's Words, published by Penguin

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now