The World Is Your Oyster

“The world is your oyster” has never been a favorite expression of mine, perhaps because oysters make me violently sick. Please world, don’t be an oyster for me, even if today the phrase means “you can have anything you want.”

The phrase “first appears in Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ (1600).
Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.
Pistol: Why, then, the world’s mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.’ Act II, Scene II.”

The original implication of the phrase is that Pistol is going to use violent means (sword) to steal his fortune (the pearl one finds in an oyster). says “The subtext of Pistol threatening Falstaff is gone nowadays. There is no sword or threat in our modern version. Instead, we just like to think that if we’re persistent enough, we can find those oysters with pearls anywhere in the world.”

I didn’t see any earlier citations, so the Bard wins this phrase.

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About Ponderer

Ponderer also writes science fiction and science-inspired rhyming poetry. Check her out at She worked at Rocky Flats for 22 years - you may know her as Kathy London.

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