ETYMOLOGY

"The world is your oyster" is a quote from Shakespeare"s The Merry Wives of Windsor:

Falstaff: I will not lover thee a penny.

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Pistol: Why then the world"s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.

Falstaff: Not a penny.

The original implication of the phrase is that Pistol is going khổng lồ use violent means (sword) to lớn steal his fortune (the pearl one finds in an oyster).

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We inherit the phrase, absent its original violent connotation, khổng lồ mean that the world is ours to lớn enjoy.


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How does one open an oyster? With a knife that is inserted inlớn the opening between the shells & then twisted.

Does the oyster willing give-up whatever is inside? No, it must be pried apart và can often be very difficult to vì chưng so -- especially as the kích cỡ of the oyster increases. But, as the kích thước of the oyster increases, so does the chance that any pearl contained therein will be larger.

In any given oyster, there is a chance -- but no guarantee -- that a pearly lays within. So, it is with life:

If Falstaff had lent Pistol the money, then Pistol would not have needed khổng lồ seek his fortune (pearl) by going out inlớn the world (the oyster) and using what he already had (his sword and his skills). His sword would be his means of making his fortune -- just as it would be used khổng lồ pry apart the shell of an oyster.

The double-meaning is a common literary device employed by Shakespeare. The use of an oyster as a metaphor for life, also has a double-meaning: The world holds the possibility of making a fortune, but it depends upon how hard one looks for & works at getting. It may take a lot of work và trying a lot of different things (i.e., prying open a lot of oysters) before one finally makes one"s fortune (i.e., finds a pearl).

Violence does not necessarily have sầu to lớn be a part of it, but may. The sword, after all it nothing but a tool whose main use is as a weapon. It can, however, be used in peaceful ways, as well.

Pistol is placed in khổng lồ position -- as most young men & women are -- of having lớn go out inkhổng lồ the world & making something of himself và the opportunities at the start are limitless and can be a grand as one"s dreams. Every oyster one picks up may hold a pearl, but most don"t. Finding a pearl requires either opening a lot of oysters or having good luchồng -- either will work.

Life is the same way: some people get lucky and make a fortune without seeming to work very hard or very long at it. But, most people either never make a fortune (settling instead for surviving off the meat of the oyster, but never finding that pearl) or have sầu to lớn work long và hard (be persistent) to lớn gain their fortunes.

The luckiest never have khổng lồ work at all: fortune is handed khổng lồ them. Pistol asked Falstaff for his fortune & when Falstaff refused, he had no choice but khổng lồ go out into the world & find it himself.

But, it was a world full of potential and all it took for hyên to find his fortune was hard work & persistence. He was young, so he had time, he wasn"t locked down lớn any location or occupation, so he was không tính tiền to lớn seek his fortune where ever he wanted, và he had the tools necessary -- his sword, his looks and his youth -- khổng lồ do it.

Therein lies the multiple meaning of Shakespeare"s invented or borrowed metaphor -- at least that is how I always understood it.