What Nixon Knew About Hamlet (and when he knew it!)

We’ve got to get back to the days where fun posts were all about tripping over random Shakespeare references. For example…

Bardfilm sends me a link to Wordeebee, which gives a visual representation of the popularity of particular words over the years. The word he’s shown me is Hamlet. Of course he’s told me none of this, he’s just texted me the following image:

Y’all get, “Frequency of the word Hamlet over the last century” from that, right?

So I wrote back to him and asked if his scanner was broken. But after he explained what it was, and sent a link (above), it got interesting. Because that image is actually interactive.

See those darker lines? Those are when the word Hamlet was used most. Turns out it was used most, 71 times, in 1969. “Interesting!” thought I, this being the year I was born. I know of no special significant Hamlet-related events happening that year, at least not that have ever crossed my radar before.

I drill down on the year and see that the most popular word that year was … Nixon.

Fascinating! Is there a Nixon / Hamlet connection? I imagine what I know about Nixon’s ultimate fate, and whether somebody was famously dropping Hamlet quotes. Then I realize that happened several years later, so that’s probably not it.

I start searching “Nixon Hamlet 1969” and I quickly find my answer.

Image via bztraining on Flickr

In 1969, President Richard Nixon got a dog. Meet King Timahoe.

Still waiting for the Shakespeare reference, I know. So was I. You’re going to hate that I made you read this far. But it’s the weekend and I’m bored and need content, so ha.

From the Nixon Library:

On January 28, 1969, Pasha and Vicky welcomed King Timahoe, an Irish Setter named after the hamlet in Ireland where Nixon’s ancestors stemmed, to the four-legged family. King Timahoe, Tim for short, was too exuberant for the Nixon family dogs, and Vicky wanted nothing to do with Tim while Pasha barked continuously. Eventually, Pasha and Vicky accepted Tim, and they became fast friends. 

Yeah. Nixon’s new dog was named after the tiny village of Timahoe, Ireland, which I’m guessing enough news sources decided to refer to as a “hamlet” when they wrote it up.

Even my Google news filters to this day still fall for that – it’s very hard to do a reasonable web search for “Hamlet” but not “hamlet”. That’s one of the few major keywords of Shakespeare to have that problem. Rarely do I see an article about “Othello, the board game” (which was taken off the market years ago, so that’s not much of a surprise) or the wrong “Macbeth” – that’s so unheard of I can’t even think of an example :). Many of the other plays have become such cliches – Romeo and Juliet, Comedy of Errors, All’s Well That Ends Well – that there’s no point in searching them.

Anyway, that was my brief entertainment for a Saturday afternoon. Hope you enjoyed the rabbit hole.

2 thoughts on “What Nixon Knew About Hamlet (and when he knew it!)

  1. William Faulkner wrote a novel called The Hamlet—so, in scholarly research, we often should used the boolean operator “not” and the word “Faulkner” to make it clear what we really want.

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