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ESL Story: The language of sleep

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There are late risers and early risers, those who need a lot of sleep and those who need only a little, some who take ages to wake up and some who jump straight out of bed first thing but whatever the required amount, all of us need sleep at some time during the day or night and so itís not surprising the many ways we have of describing it. To start with there is a special language for children.

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The sandman is coming we say to sleepy children following the old story about that strange man who is supposed to drop sand in their eyes near bed time. Alternatively, we talk of the need for a child to start on his journey to slumberland or the land of nod and parents of a musical turn of mind can speed their children on their way to this land of sleep with a lullaby. Of course, as you grow older, you indulge in the luxury of short sleeps during the day. You take a cat nap beside the fire or doze off or snooze on a train journey which all describe the kind of sleep that can be interrupted at a momentís notice. A more basic expression of this sort is to have a little shut eye. Should you wish for a little peace and quiet at the office, put a notice outside the door stating: Do not disturb ó having 40 winks. Forty apparently is the maximum allowed for this kind of sleep.

The strange thing is that few people in company will announce boldly: Well, I think Iíll go to sleep now. More likely than not as a guest we say: Well, I think if you donít mind Iíll turn in now. Without offending the hospitality of your host you could also say: I think itís time for me to hit the sack, which need be no criticism of the softness of the mattress. And incidentally, very important people are not described as simply going to bed but rather retiring for the night; somehow it sounds just a bit more dignified. Of course, should your gests be reluctant to go home to their own beds and you have a strong desire to be rid of them and go to sleep yourself, you could be subtle and wind up the sitting room clock, look at your watch anxiously or even yawn. But if you have no inhibitions the best thing is to drop off or nod off in the middle of the conversation and generally act sleepy or drowsy and if all else fails go upstairs and come down again in your pyjamas.

There are several expressions that describe the state of being asleep and most seem to refer to deep sleep like being sound asleep or fast asleep. There are also some comparisons: to sleep like a top, sleep like a baby, or when the sleeper refuses to be disturbed even by the ceiling falling in to sleep like the dead. More colloquial sayings refer to someone being out like a light, spark out or flat out and again, for a very heavy sleeper dead to the world. Well, I donít know about you but this is all having a distinctly soporific effect on me but just assuming youíre still wide awake and in the land of the living let me leave you with a final expression. Next time youíre off upstairs or along the corridor to bed, give the rest of the house a treat ó say goodnight and then showing off your classical education and also giving them food for thought late at night add, well I think Iíll be off now to take my rest in the arms of Morpheus.

Happy dreams!

Dear Friend,
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Many thanks.

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Next:ESL Story: The language of sarcasm

Author: Alan Townend


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