"sleep tight"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 14 17:20:52 UTC 2013

Don't overlook "tight asleep," presumably the origin:

1872  S. N. Landis _The Social War of 1900_ [Phila.: Landis] 85:  Yis, dear
Pat, I belave anything, after having seen Miss Lucinda Armington lying on a
cot, *tight asleep** *in that cozy cell.


On Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 11:16 AM, Charles C Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Charles C Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
> Subject:      "sleep tight"
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> A folklore student of mine was discussing the widely-known nocturnal
> jingle or chant "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite."  She
> was perplexed by--obviously unfamiliar with--the somewhat idiomatic phrase
> "sleep tight"; she wondered if wrapping up tightly in a blanket is supposed
> the deter the onslaught of bedbugs!  At my urging, of course, she betook
> herself to the OED, where, we discovered (to my surprise) the earliest
> example of "tight" modifying the verb "sleep" is from 1933 ("Good night,
> Son, sleep tight").  An 1898 quotation has "asleep tight."
> A quick search of the ProQuest newspapers gives the sequence "Good night.
> Sleep tight" from 1890:  Katharine Lee Bates, "Sibyl's Adventure," _The
> Independent_ (28 Aug.).  In 1874 an unattributed essay
> "Jack-in-the-Pulpit," _St. Nicholas_ magazine (Jun.), included what
>  purports to be a letter from one "Heather o' Scotland" (also dated 1874):
>  "May ye sleep tight an' ha'e mony happy dreams."
> Presumably, the OED regards "sleep tight" not as an idiom or fixed phrase
> but simply as one among many possible adverbial uses of "tight."
> In any case, somnolar "tight" is somewhat older than the OED entry
> reveals.  But not, perhaps, in the company of bedbugs.
> --Charlie
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