Monday, 28 January 2013

The Secrets Of Sleep Slang

Every day of our lives, humans use thousands of words with hidden origins and meanings.
Many of these are sleep-related, and with secret and age-old meanings.

We have dug deep in our repertoire of common sleep-talk, and investigated the origins and meanings of these common phrases whose meanings have got lost in the depths of time:
Read on to discover a few facts you may not have known...

An old fashioned bed made from ropes drawn across the base

"Sleep Tight- Don't Let The Bed Bugs Bite"
This charming little rhyme could refer to the one of two things. One of these refers to the old fashioned mattress support, where ropes would be used to support a mattress, and would need to be bound tightly to provide a comfortable support, and good sleep.
Bed bugs were a common problem in the olden days, where mattresses would be made from linens stuffed with straw, so it was commonplace for people to try and avoid their itchy crawling and biting.

The other theory refers simply to 'sleep tight' meaning, sleep deeply, sleep well.


Grey Cat With Yellow Eyes Winking

"40 Winks"
This modern sounding phrase in fact was first used in print as far back as 1828. This was thought to have been derived from the bibles use of  the number 40. Instead of a specific number, 40 was used instead to indicate an indefinite large number. So 40 days and nights of rain, 40 days in the desert, etc. 'Wink' was a old-fashioned term for nap, so 40 Winks would have been a long nap.

Henry Fuseli - The Nightmare 1781. An oil painting of a demon sitting on a sleeping womans chest.

"Nightmare"
This comes from the old term 'Mare', which in many languages, including Old English meant demon. A Night Mare was believed to be a small demon that came out at night, and would sit on the chest of a sleeper, causing fear, distress, and a suffocating feeling. The two demons 'Succubus' and 'Incubus' would sit on the chest of the sleeper, and torment the sleeper, causing terror, discomfort and sleep paralysis. Conicidentally, these 'Mares' would also hijack horses- also known as Mares- to ride to the places where their victims lay.


A black and white photograph of an old fashioned low-rent room; a kippe
An 18th Centuty 'Flophouse', or 'Kippe'.
Kip/Nap
In 18th century England, the term 'Kippe', derived from the Danish word for 'hut', was used to refer to a low-class inn or room. Often used to refer to a brothel, cheap inn or flophouse, a Kippe was the lowest class of all places to sleep, and was often used by the poor and desparate- those who were so tired that they did not care about the quality of the room.
'Nap' comes from the old english word 'Nappen', which means 'to sleep lightly'.


Garfield Comic Strip- 03/20/2012'Zzz'
Traditionally used in cartoons, the 'Zzz's' above somebody's head would indicate sleeping or snoring.
Some theories about this is is that it refers to the other common expression 'Cutting Logs' (to be snoring loudly in your sleep, like a chainsaw), and that the 'Z' is a kind of visual symbol of the jagged edge of the saw.
Animated Sheep Jumping over a wooden fence at night
Counting Sheep

This age-old method of counting sheep jumping over a fence was developed to soothe the brain into sleep, by coming up with a way to use visuals and numbers simultaneously.
By occupying both sides of the brain, this counteracts the distracting brain activity that causes insomnia, and often is cited to help busy minds overcome stress and mental stimulation, and calming the brain activity into a more restful mode.


The Land Of Nod
Painting of Cains Exile to The Land Of Nod

It sounds almost like a mystical place where we visit when we 'nod off', though contrary to how it sounds, the original Land Of Nod was not a pleasant place to be. In the Bible, the land of nod is located to the East of Eden (ie. not in paradise!), and is where Cain was exiled to after murdering his brother.
The term was then coined by the English language as a play on words of the term 'nodding off'- referring to that stage of sleep where your head nods.

Did you learn anything new? Or is there any other phrases with hidden meanings that you know of? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter!