[Ads-l] Not something to lose sleep over, but...

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 30 21:32:59 UTC 2015

The phrase "to lose sleep over" is listed in the Oxford English
Dictionary under the headword "lose". It is grouped with several other
phrases. The earliest cite listed was 1942, but OED probably was
probably not really trying to find the earliest. Indeed, the phrase is
much older.

Some references list "to lose sleep over" as an idiom. Here is an online entry:

Merriam-Webster has "lose sleep over" in its Learner's Dictionary

[Begin OED excerpt]
lose, verb

3. b. with obj. a limb, a faculty, one's life, etc. to lose one's
head: see head n.1 Phrases 4j. to lose heart : to become discouraged.
to lose one's heart: see heart n. 10a. †to lose one's breath : to die.
to lose one's legs (slang): to get drunk. to lose one's nerve (nerve
n. 14): to become scared, uneasy. to lose sleep over (or about, for) ,
etc., something): to worry about (something) (usu. in negative
[End OED excerpt]

[Earliest relevant OED citation. I think]
1942   H. C. Bailey Dead Man's Shoes iv. 19   'I'd like to know why
you didn't tell me.' 'You told me not to lose any sleep over it.'
[End citation]

Below is a citation in 1882 for "lose sleep over". The search was
cursory and earlier cites should exist; maybe much earlier. In
addition there is a cite in 1877 for "lose sleep for".

Date: November 1882
Journal: The Poultry World
Article: Communications: How to Succeed
Start Page 171, Quote Page 172
Publisher: H. H. Stoddard, Hartford, Connecticut

Short link: http://bit.ly/1T2xWGM

[Begin excerpt]
Every breeder knows that there is a class of customers who can never
be pleased, and when he has done all that a reasonable person could
ask, the conscientious seller will not be likely to lose sleep over
the unreasonable grumbling of such.
[End excerpt]

Date: September 18, 1877
Journal: The Cultivator & Country Gentleman
Short link: http://bit.ly/1R2L556


[Begin excerpt]
"I don't know. I lay awake hours last night, thinking about you, and
laying plans. I am a great hand at planning, and somehow my plans
often come out well."

"You should not lose sleep for me, Miss Hatfield," said Florence. "You
need all you can get, after your hard day In the schoolroom."
[End excerpt]

Charles Dickens used "to lose sleep for" in "Dombey and Son" (1848),
but the meaning in context was not clear to me.

Regarding the Woody Allen quotation LH mentioned:

[Begin excerpt from Yale Book of Quotations]
The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won’t get much sleep.
Without Feathers "The Scrolls" (1975)
[End excerpt]

[Begin excerpt from Chambers Dictionary of Quotations]
The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won't get much sleep.
1974 'The Scrolls', in The New Republic, 31 Aug.
[End excerpt]


On Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 3:43 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Not something to lose sleep over, but...
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> On Jun 30, 2015, at 3:19 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>> On Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 2:47 PM, Laurence Horn =
> <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
>> wrote:
>>> Am I right in assuming there's less here than meets the eye?
>> That's my immediate opinion, too. When stuff keeps you up at night, =
> that's
>> literally what it does. There's nothing metaphoric about it.
>> --=20
>> -Wilson
> Agreed.  But somehow, when I read the thesis that 'the phrase "lose =
> sleep over" [perhaps] comes from "Lion doesn't lose sleep over opinion =
> of sheep."', all I can think of is a combo platter of=20
> of Wimoweh's "In the jungle/The mighty jungle/The lion sleeps tonight" =
> and Woody Allen's "The lion shall lie down with the lamb, but the lamb =
> won't get much sleep".
> LH
> =20
>> -----
>> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint =
> to
>> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>> -Mark Twain
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