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Is there a word to describe the co-opting of a well-known phrase in the course of regular conversation or writing? For example, a sentence regarding death might refer to "shaking off the mortal coil" without mentioning that the phrase is taken from Shakespeare (perhaps assuming that the audience will be familiar with the reference). If it's not an exact quote, this could be called a "paraphrase" of Shakespeare. But what could it be called if it is an exact quote?

Example: What adverb could be employed to complete this sentence: The phrase "shuffled off the mortal coil" was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author ______y.

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I think it might depend on which aspect of the quotation you want to emphasize. It seems like anything from idiom to reference to allusion could fit in some way. Also, @XavierVidalHernández, I searched and was unable to find a duplicate of this question. Please post a link if you have one. –  Cameron Aug 13 '12 at 19:01
    
@Cameron - How would you fill in the blank? "The phrase 'shuffled off the mortal coil' was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author ________y." [Idiomatically? Doesn't sound right.] –  kurkevan Aug 13 '12 at 19:09
    
allusively and referentially are the adverb forms of the other two words. –  Cameron Aug 13 '12 at 19:20
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@kurkevan "unknowningly" is very often the case ... –  coleopterist Aug 13 '12 at 19:32
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I'm not sure why you need an adverb. Couldn't you just say "The phrase 'shuffled off this mortal coil' was made famous by Shakespeare, and is quoted by this author." or just drop the adverb altogether? –  KitFox Aug 13 '12 at 19:33

5 Answers 5

What to call it depends heavily on context, desired effect, and point of view (ie whether you are writing the phrase, or a discussion of its use). Perhaps the softest, least pejorative (but not entirely accurate) term is allusion, "An indirect reference; a hint; a reference to something supposed to be known, but not explicitly mentioned; a covert indication". Also consider tribute, if the quotation is intended to call a favorite author to mind.

If you are not concerned about softness, call it plagiarism or plagiary, or refer to unattributed or non-attributed quotation, or to theft, snobbery, elitism.

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Thanks. As I commented to Cameron above, I'm looking for a word that would complete this sentence: "The phrase 'shuffled off the mortal coil' was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author ________y." Of course there are many ways to reword the sentence, but I'm searching for a single adverb that incorporates this meaning. –  kurkevan Aug 13 '12 at 19:13
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@kurkevan, you could fill in that blank (with the y dropped) with allusively, in tribute, plagiaristically, snobbishly, appropriately, nicely, badly and many other words, depending on desired meaning. Also, please edit your example sentences into the question so that people need not read all the comments to understand what you are asking. –  jwpat7 Aug 13 '12 at 19:17
    
I added the example to the question as per your advice. Of the words you suggested, the closest one is "allusively," but it's not perfect: The quoter isn't necessarily trying to allude to anything, he's just 'borrowing' the famous phrase. –  kurkevan Aug 13 '12 at 19:25
    
@kurkevan - What do you want to say? That the phrase was used unwittingly, ignorantly, inappropriately, in a cliched or unoriginal manner? If you merely want to say the author didn't make up the phrase, saying "made famous by Shakespeare" is enough, and you can leave off the "and is used by this author ______" part. –  jwpat7 Aug 13 '12 at 19:36
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@Potatoswatter, no, a phrase used allusively is an allusion, and the usage (not the phrase) is allusory. Now, as to how OP wants to say the phrase was used, for a good while that was quite elusive, perhaps so much as to be illusive; but now we know "borrowed quote" was an intended sense and can make intelligent suggestions. –  jwpat7 Aug 14 '12 at 6:22

These do not convey the sense of "taking a phrase and using it in a different context."

After reading that comment to coleopterist, I'm not entirely certain I understand what you're after, but I have a few suggestions nonetheless:

  • The phrase “shuffled off the mortal coil” was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author in another context.

  • The phrase “shuffled off the mortal coil” was made famous by Shakespeare, and has been borrowed by this author.

  • The phrase “shuffled off the mortal coil” was made famous by Shakespeare, and this author has dropped it into one of his works.

None of these supply the adverb you're looking for, but they might convey the same meaning.

As for the last suggestion, a quote can be dropped, much like a name can be dropped. I found these similar usages of the word in a literature search:

My friend dropped a quote from Benjamin Franklin towards the end of his letter.1

Sure enough, in time, I called her; she was articulate and funny and seemed smart, and I dropped a quote from her into my column.2

As for using the word borrowed, that's not without precedent, either. Almost 50 years ago, a magazine printed:

For those who tremble at the thought of tackling something so fantastically complicated, let me encourage you with a borrowed quote: "The only thing you have to fear is fear itself."3

More recently, there's this writing tip:

If a borrowed quote is previously known to the reader, the writer's use of it allows the reader to associate the writer's point with the well-known and memorable quote.4

The term borrowed quote sounds suspiciously close to what you're seeking.


F O O T N O T E S
1Michael Jean Nystrom-Schut, Reflections of a Mad, Mad World, 2005
2Charles A. Jaffe, Getting Started in Finding a Financial Advisor, 2010
3Popular Science, quoting Frankin D. Roosevelt, May 1966
4Michael R. Smith, Advanced legal writing: theories and strategies in persuasive writing, 2008

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Footnotes are sweet, but, frankly, your conclusion is completely out! –  Elberich Schneider Aug 13 '12 at 21:54
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"Borrowed quote" is indeed the sense I meant. –  kurkevan Aug 13 '12 at 22:01

I'm unsure if the OP wants to stress on the accuracy of the quotation or the appropriateness of it. But, here are a few options:

The phrase "shuffled off the mortal coil" was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author, verbatim.

The phrase "shuffled off the mortal coil" was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author, word for word.

The phrase "shuffled off the mortal coil" was made famous by Shakespeare, and is (re)used by this author faithfully.

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These do not convey the sense of "taking a phrase and using it in a different context." All they say is that the phrase was quoted accurately. –  kurkevan Aug 13 '12 at 19:47
    
@kurkevan For that you might want to replace used with something else. Perhaps, adapted by this author faithfully or similar ... –  coleopterist Aug 13 '12 at 20:41
    
Adapted! That's a good word, I'll have to see if it works... –  kurkevan Aug 13 '12 at 21:59

Other things being equal, I would simply call it "quoting". The speaker may not give a full citation, but if they are consciously using the phrase, either knowing the source or not, they are quoting.

When I say "other things being equal", I am referring to the kind of considerations that jwpat7 made: context, intent of the quoter, desired effect (are you calling them out for failing to attribute?), etc.

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As noted by coleopterist, the exact adverb is verbatim, meaning "word for word:"

The phrase "shuffled off the mortal coil" was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author verbatim.

If you insist on using an adverb that ends with -ly, any synonym of verbatim will do:

The phrase "shuffled off the mortal coil" was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author directly.

The phrase "shuffled off the mortal coil" was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author exactly.

The phrase "shuffled off the mortal coil" was made famous by Shakespeare, and is used by this author literally.

And so forth.

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