Saturday, October 09, 2010

Ti-Ti-Tightening Those Ropes

When I was growing up the words said at bed time included ‘good night’ and ‘I love you’ along with the phrase ‘Tie-Tie’ and ‘Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”

‘Tie-Tie’ came from me because as a little girl I couldn’t pronounce the words ‘night-night’…..all that came out was ‘Tie-Tie ‘and the phrase entered our family lexicon. If I said ‘Tie-Tie’ to my father or my sister they would know exactly what I meant.

But what about that “sleep tight” thing? Where does that come from?

Recently I posted a picture of a rope tightening key for Wordless Wednesday. The key was used to tighten rope mattresses common in colonial and post-colonial America.

Here’s a video showing how the key was used to tighten the bed ropes.

When you tour old colonial locations docents love to share with you the phrase “Sleep tight” came from the fact that you would want the ropes tight in order to get a good night’s sleep.

It does make sense, doesn’t it?

But upon closer study there is no definitive proof the saying originated from tightening the ropes.

The Oxford English Dictionary states the phrase is fairly new and Michael Quinon at World Wide Words  advises the phrase was used as late as 1916 in L Frank Baum’s Rinkitink In Oz, and Susan Eppes uses the phrase in Through Some Eventful Years dated 1866.

Most sources state ‘sleep tight’ refers to sleeping soundly or properly which dates back to Shakespeare.

The only thing we can be sure of is the tool I pictured here the other day is a device to tightening the ropes on a bed, and…….that’s about it.


Casdok said...


Bohdan Kosovych said...

We think that is a great example of making history come alive for kids. The student could be asked for his/her thoughts and feelings about sleeping and dealing with a rope mattress instead of the comfortable ones we have today that don't have to be tightened. What would you do first before going to bed, brush your teeth or tighten the mattress?