I like words…so much so, if fact, that I majored in journalism in college. I like every thing about them. What they mean, how to correctly organize them, where they come from, how they turn into popular sayings when strung together. It’s nerdy, I admit. But, I feel I’m in good company as people such as Shakespeare were word-nerds, too.
Recently, some co-workers and I were talking about the origin of the phrase “sleep tight” (they, too, are word-nerds). I remember hearing that the way beds were constructed eons ago was the genesis of the phrase. Instead of box springs, the folks of old used criss-crossed ropes through a wooden bed frame to create the foundations for their straw mattresses (sounds less-than-comfy). Well, ropes stretch over time, which required the people of yore to pull their “foundations” tight from time to time. Hence, the “sleep tight” colloquialism.
But as with anything historical in nature, there is massive debate among the pundits. So, I decided I needed to do some heavy-duty research to uncover (was that a pun?) the truth. So, I “Googled” the phrase and decided Yahoo Answers got it right. According to the wise ones over there, no one really knows from hence the phrase came. The rope-foundation theory could be valid. So, too, could the theory that the word “tight” meant the same as “soundly” in the 18th and 19th centuries. So, the phrase “sleep tight” and “sleep soundly” meant the exact same thing…when uttered to you by someone, he or she wanted you to experience a good night’s sleep. How nice, huh?
It appears there is no conclusive answer about the origin of “sleep tight.” That said, this post is not devoid of concrete conclusions. First, we can conclude that people in the 18th and 19th century spoke a bit differently than we do today, which causes us to scratch our heads and “Google” phrases such as “sleep tight.” Second, we can, with certainty, conclude sleeping on ropes and straw was terrible. Really terrible…worse-than-a-futon terrible or worse-than-gram’s-old-davenport terrible. I wonder what we’ll say about innerspring in a few hundred years, especially with much better technology out there (I know, it’s my shameless plug for a Sleep Number bed).
So, readers, I hope with every fiber of my being that you “sleep tight” tonight.