Will's word

30th January 2004 at 00:00
Blasted (adjective) "expression of general dislike, damned, intoxicated, high"

The intensifying meaning, as in "You're too blasted smart", is from the 19th century; the application to alcohol or drugs from the late 20th century. Shakespeare uses only the original meanings, which first came into the language in the 16th century. Growing things are said to be blasted, meaning "blighted" or "withered". Macbeth meets the witches on a "blasted heath" (Macbeth, I.iii.76) and Richard describes his deformed arm as a "blasted sapling" (Richard III, III.iv.69). The sense of "accursed" or "malevolent" is never far away. We see this meaning again when Antony shouts at Cleopatra in a jealous rage: "You were half blasted ere I knew you" (Antony and Cleopatra, III.xiii.105). The older sense comes out more clearly when blast is used as a verb, as when Ophelia describes Hamlet as "blasted with ecstasy" (ie madness; Hamlet, III.i.161).

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

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