" 'white' sleep"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Nov 5 01:12:56 UTC 2005

Thanks to all who helped out on this. Bill, you are a resourceful masked rider of the plains.


"Mullins, Bill" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Mullins, Bill"
Subject: Re: " 'white' sleep"

>From searching Google Print for "white sleep":

The Rainbow
by D H Lawrence - Fiction - 1998
Page 157 - He did not sleep, save for the white sleep when a thin veil
is drawn over the mind.
... For three or four nights he lay alone through the white sleep, ...

Shapes that Haunt the Dusk
by William Dean Howells - 1907 - 301 pages
Page 35 - Our theory began far away from that, in what he used to call
"white sleep," and
more especially in a curious occasional association between the dreams
of ...

Whiskey's Children
by Jack Erdmann, Larry Kearney - 1998 - 224 pages
Page 134 - A white sleep is when you seem to be asleep but your head is
noisy, and crowded.
There's a shifty, flat-white light in it, like the moon is inside your

Celtic Tree Mysteries: Practical Druid Magic & Divination
by Steve Blamires - Body, Mind & Spirit - 2002 - 278 pages
Page 196 - One old Scottish-Gaelic euphemism for death was "the white
sleep." This expression
was not used because of superstition, or the fear of speaking the words

There's lots more . . . .

(I believe today is when the Google Print database starts to include the
text of several large libraries.)

> In his 1957 novel _A Death in the Family_, James Agee uses
> the term "a ' white ' sleep" [Agee's single quotes] to
> describe the very troubled sleep of an anxious character. The
> story is set in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1916.
> Is anybody familiar with this phrase? The quotation marks
> seem to imply that Agee regarded it as idiomatic, but I can
> find no other reference to it.

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