I expect a huge majority of people to be curious about the title of this post, as I would surely be myself, especially before I read a book called, “Forgotten English” by Jeffrey Kacirck. Among the many words forgotten and no longer used, I found a word that I felt SHOULD still be used because it is to me, a wonderful description for what it is. Now you’re probably wondering, what IS a Bosom Serpent? Well, it is NOT a snake that sits on your chest. A Bosom Serpent is a person treated with kindness and affection who in return inflicts an emotionally venomous wound. Unfortunately, I and many others have come across many such people, but this is the first time I have had a word for them that fits so well!

The first ever recorded reference of a “Bosom Serpent” was in the text, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” by William Shakespeare. The line: “Help me, Lysander, help me; do thy best
To pluck this crawling serpent from my breast.”  Forgive me if I get this wrong, because I have never read this play(I know, for shame, right?!) but in skimming there notes on the play, it seems as the bearer of this line, Hermia, says this in response to feeling mocked by these two men who are after her but weren’t originally in love with her while she has no clue why her true lover, Lysander, has abandoned her(he has been accidently put under a sleeping spell by the fairy Puck). I should really read this play…sounds like an ancient version of a soap opera already!

But back to the point. Throughout my life, I have met many people that I have been very kind to, to the best of my ability, that have turned around and been nothing but mean right back or been nice at first but it seemed only to hide a hidden agenda. At the time, all I knew was that this hurt my heart and felt like I had been betrayed by someone when I didn’t deserve it. The only words I had for this type of person was hateful, a betrayer, choice curse words, etc. I never had a specific word that really got to the heart of how it felt to be treated so differently than how you treated them. I mean the Golden Rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, right? So in giving out good vibes and being really nice, you pretty much expect that others will do the same back, right? I don’t want people to be mean or rude to me so I try as much as possible to not act that way towards them. But the word Bosom Serpent really stands for something far worse than someone who just acts mean back to you. After all, it’s someone who turns around and inflicts an “emotionally venomous wound”. Powerful words! It’s not only something done in return that hurts your feelings. Venomous stands for poisonous and poison tends to have horrible, sometimes fatal results. In the case of this wound, it will probably not physically kill you, but it can feel almost as bad emotionally.

Imagine the love of your life suddenly went from loving you to calling you names and saying he didn’t love you anymore and wanted nothing to do with you. Imagine a family member who you have been close to suddenly ignoring you and seemingly going out of their way to let you know they don’t care. Imagine a friend who over the summer has gained new friends and acts like he or she is too good for you. All examples of Bosom Serpents and I have definitely met my share. Here’s to healing the old venomous wounds and saying good riddance to these serpents and hope I never deal with you again!


  1. I love the term! It’s definitely one worth bringing back!

    I’ve never been all that fond of Shakespeare (I blame the fact that “Romeo and Juliet” is regarded more as a romance than a tragedy and I just can’t take it seriously as a romance . . . . and that my second exposure to Shakespeare was “Julius Caesar” and that play bored me to tears), but I’ve always wanted to read “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” I think you might have just helped make it a priority 🙂


    1. I consider “Romeo and Juliet” a tragedy as well AND “Julius Caesar” was boring to me, too! I haven’t had a strong urge to read “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” in the past but reading about it definitely peaked my interest!


      1. In 10th grade, I had to recite a monologue from “Julius Caesar” in front of my class. I still freaking remember half of it. It won’t go away!


      2. In 9th grade, we had to do a monologue from “Romeo and Juliet”…I did Queen Mab’s speech for extra credit…I don’t remember it, though..I ended up learning it in like 15 minutes on my way to Disney with my choir group during Spring Break….Later when I took Acting, I remembered how my shyness seemed to go away when I did that monologue and memorizing it felt so natural…..Wish I had had the guts THEN to do Theatre….unfortunately between my shyness and the bullying, I never did and it’s a shame, I think it would have been so good for me back then


      3. There are so many things I wish I would have done when I was younger . . . . let’s invent a time machine so we can go back and slap some sense into ourselves!

        I like reciting other people’s stuff in front of people. I just have trouble when it’s my own stuff. :p I would have loved to get into theater. I loved my high school, but the one downside was that we had a Drama major, so they were pretty much the only ones in the plays. I never thought to get involved somewhere else.


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