George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sat Jan 7 16:51:11 UTC 2012

In olden times, before central heating, &c., sleeping with an infant was a
common practice, and doubtless made sense.    If the mother rolled over and
suffocated the baby, the coroner's jury would bring the verdict of
accidental death from being over-lain by the mother.

overlie, verb, *Inflections:*  Past tense *overlay*; past participle *
*2.* *trans.*
Thesaurus »<>
Categories »<>

 *a.* To lie over or on top of (a child, etc.) so as to cause suffocation;
to smother by lying on. Cf. overlay v.
Now *rare*.
*a*1382    *Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.)
*(Bodl. 959) 3 Kings iii. 9   Þe sone of þis womman ys dead to nyȝt, for
sleepynge sche ouerlay [*a*1425 *Corpus Oxf.* ouerlaye; *a*1425 *L.V.*
L. *oppressit*] hym.
*c*1390  (1350)    *Proprium Sanctorum* in *Archiv f. das Studium der
Neueren Sprachen<>
* (1888) *81* 301   Þis is aȝeyn þeos wymmen þat ouerliggen heor children.
*c*1400  (1280)    *Old Test. Hist.* in F. J. Furnivall *Adam Davy's 5
* (1878) 97   In hire slep þat o womman her owen childe ouerlay.
*a*1450  (1425)    J. Mirk *Instr. Parish
* (Claud.) (1974) 1657   Sende forth‥to þe byschop‥th.e modur þat þe chylde
*a*1500  (1415)    J. Mirk
* (Gough) 150   Fendys‥make wymen to ouerlye hor children.
1530    J. Palsgrave
* 648/1,   I overlye, as an oversene noryce dothe her chylde.

1803    R. Southey *Select.
* (1856) I. 126   The mothers and the nurses who over-lie the children.
1856    E. B. Browning *Aurora
* iv. 137   The old idiot wretch Screamed feebly, like a baby overlain.
1888    F. T. Elworthy *W. Somerset
* 548   Th' old zow've a-bin and overlied one o' the little pigs.
1915    W. S. Maugham *Of Human
* cxiii. 597   Accidents occurred often; mothers ‘overlay’ their babies,
and perhaps errors of diet were not always the result of carelessness.

I note the near 300 year gap (?)


On Sat, Jan 7, 2012 at 4:11 AM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at>wrote:

> Here's another word I've never heard--legal and helicopter-parenting
> jargon, I suppose.
>> The Utah Court of Appeals has refused to dismiss charges in the
>> controversial case of a South Jordan couple accused of killing their
>> baby by sleeping with him -- their second child to die in their bed.
>> The appeals judges sided with a lower court in a pair of opinions
>> released Friday, saying that even though a state medical examiner
>> listed the official cause of death as "undetermined," there was enough
>> evidence that "co-sleeping" caused the baby to suffocate to put the
>> parents on trial for child abuse homicide and reckless endangerment.
>> ...
>> At 3½ months, he was too young to roll over on his own, evidence that
>> "supports a reasonable inference that Merrill actually caused the
>> infant to stop breathing by co-sleeping," according to Friday’s opinion.
>> The parents were said to be heavy sleepers, and a pediatrician warned
>> them against co-sleeping a day before the child’s death.
> This is not without precedent. The OED has both co-sleeping n. and
> co-sleep v. from 1966.
> Wordnik has several citations, including some with co-sleep and some
> with co-sleeper. OED does not have co-sleeper either in the sense of a
> special co-sleeping crib or in the sense of parent and child who are
> co-sleeping.
> Co-sleeping's deadly risk
>> Last year will be remembered for a number of things, but what should
>> stick in people's minds is the number of deaths resulting from
>> co-sleeping. The very mention of the word causes people to take sides
>> and offer opinions.
>> There are those who believe that co-sleeping is a wonderful experience
>> between mother and child, allowing for bonding. By definition,
>> co-sleeping involves the child sharing a sleep surface with the parent
>> or parents, instead of being placed in his or her own bed. There are a
>> number of reasons for this, from convenience to a desire to form that
>> special bond to necessity to even laziness.
>> There are those who say that there is nothing wrong with co-sleeping
>> and that it's an old practice. Co-sleeping, they say, has been
>> practiced by many mothers over the years with no ill effects, and,
>> therefore, there is not a problem with it.
>> Co-sleeping can be really really great for helping a tired mom get
>> some extra hours of sleep and for helping a young baby sleep longer
>> stretches as he feels his mother right there next to him.
>> ...
>> Yes, there are several rules you MUST follow to co-sleep safely (look
>> here for details) but if you follow them this can be the answer you
>> sound like you desperately need.
>> ...
>> Robin - we do co-sleep (following all the guidelines, etc, etc ...
>> ...
>> I used an Arm's Reach co-sleeper ( side car) with my second baby.
>> ...
>> I used an Arm's Reach co-sleeper ( side car) with my second baby.
>> ...
>> Co-sleeping didn't help, because she didn't sleep for more than an 45
>> minutes to an hour no matter where we were.
>> ...
>> I was co-sleeping with my daughter (she was born in Jan) for about six
>> weeks and was totally exhausted.
>> ...
>> Everything woke him up, and (to my utter dismay) we couldn't co-sleep
>> because I woke up every time HE woke up ...
>> ...
>> I tried him in co-sleeper, bassinet, whatever, in our room and T would
>> have none of it.
>> ...
>> You sound too sensitive (I was) to co-sleep. Put him in his own room.
>> (When your child can out-cry-you-out, and the co-sleeping is one long
>> dance of head-kicking, hair-yanking pain, what do you do? Seriously.
>> /
>> The Consumer Product Safety Commission warned last week against
>> co-sleeping--infants sleeping next to parent. Its study found parents
>> can roll over and suffocate babies. Critics call the data misleading.
>> It's all part of the war over for what's best for Baby.
>> Sleep Easy: Co-sleeping means more rest, less crying for the baby (and
>> the parents). It also aids breast-feeding and mother-child bonding.
>> Baby on Board: The CPSC says Baby's safest on her back, in a crib, on
>> a hard mattress, with no blankets, pillows or stuffed toys
>> Different Strokes: Ethnic cultures where co-sleeping has always been
>> the norm resent CPSC's proclamation
>> Real Risks: Co-sleeping deaths do happen (especially when parents are
>> overweight or go to bed drunk). Is it better to be safe than cozy?
>> Mother, Nature: We're biologically wired to co-sleep. Baby cries when
>> alone because he's supposed to be with Mom.
> Wiki, UD, WordSpy and some parenting glossaries also have entries. But
> not mainline dictionaries (other than the OED).
> VS-)
> ------------------------------**------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.

The American Dialect Society -

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