Y: Hey Don, watch'a reading?
D: Romeo and Juliet.
Y: Wow. I didn't know you were so literary.
D: Sure, I enjoy a great read. But that's not why I'm reading Shakespeare---I'm doing an experiment.
Y: What do you mean?
D: Here, I'll demonstrate. Listen to this line; it's Romeo observing Juliet at her window: "She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that? Her eye discourses; I will answer it." Did you feel anything?
Y: Well, it's a beautiful line, of course, but what was I supposed to feel?
D: Increased brain activity. See, Shakespeare often uses what linguists call a functional shift, meaning that he uses a noun as a verb. As in, "Her eye discourses."
Y: Okay, I get it. "Discourse" is normally a noun, but Shakespeare uses it as a verb. That's interesting, but so what?
D: Researchers at the University of Liverpool, in England, found that hearing or reading language used in this shifted way causes a sudden jump in brain activity. It sort of makes the brain work backward to make sense of Shakespeare's language, kind of like solving a puzzle.
Y: Cool. So Shakespeare is making us understand the word in a new way that in a sense rewires the brain.
D: Yep. Literary critics know that Shakespeare's inventiveness with language is one of the things that make his writing so memorable and dramatic. But who knew that reading Shakespeare literally throws the brain for a loop?