40 winks

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40 winks

Post by Archived Topic » Sat Oct 23, 2004 8:53 pm

What is the origin of the phrase "40 winks" ?
Submitted by Dana Precious (Sherman Oaks - U.S.A.)
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40 winks

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Oct 23, 2004 9:08 pm

Dana, 40 WINKS is a brief nap, often after a meal. The expression derives from the closed-eye position, or extended wink assumed during sleep (‘wink’ has been associated with sleep since the 14th century), but implies that the resting person does not fall into a deep sleep. <“There’s just time for forty winks before we have to leave”>. But why 40 winks for a short nap?

One story suggests that the Thirty-nine Articles, the articles of faith that the Church of England clergy have been required to accept since 1571, are responsible for the phrase. It seems that a writer in Punch (November 16, 1872) quipped: “If a . . . man, after reading through the Thirty-nine Articles were to take FORTY WINKS . . . ” and that his joke about the long and tedious Articles led to the expression for a short nap.

However, the above story, although widely circulated, cannot be the source of the expression because ‘40 winks’ was recorded in print as early as the 1820s (see below), with George Elliot using it in 1866. The more likely explanation is that the use of ‘40’ follows from the old tradition of using 40 to designate an indefinite number (many) as in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus (Act III, Scene i): “I could beat forty of them.” In fact, Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang gives ‘many’ as a slang definition of FORTY dating from the mid-19th century.

Other examples of the use of forty to express many are: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves ‘forty fits’ (a conniption’), ‘forty miles from nowhere.’ From the Bible we have forty days and forty nights which applies to the Flood, the number of years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, the number of days Christ spent on earth after the Resurrection, the time Noah spent fasting on Mt. Sinai and that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness.
<1828 “The uncommonly big gentleman, told out, taking FORTY WINKS.”—‘Finish to Tom & Jerry’ by Egan, iii. (1871), page 87>

<1851 “His quiet ‘FORTY WINKS' after dinner.”—‘Westminster Review,’ July, page 326>

<1890 “‘Well, I declare, Dolly, you are going to sleep!’ ‘I am very tired; only FORTY WINKS. Is there time?’”—‘By order of Czar,’ by J. Hatton, II,. iv>
(Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, OED)
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Ken G – February 10, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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40 winks

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Oct 23, 2004 9:22 pm

Great job, Ken (as usual), but I don't remember NOAH having anything to do with Mt. Sinai. (Maybe he was up there fasting while MOSES was on the ark!) *G*
Reply from K. Allen Griffy (Springfield, IL - U.S.A.)
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40 winks

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Oct 23, 2004 9:37 pm

My brother-in-law (x) always had a nap after dinner,
he called it checking his eye lids for pin holes.
In numerology? 40 can mean!!!!
Notaricon: concepts/a weighed/w in reflective/m thought/r; meditation/a that brings equilibrium/w to the flow/m of thoughts/r; to focus/a and balance/w a troubled/m mind/r.
Reply from Gary Wallington (Akolele - Australia)
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40 winks

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Oct 23, 2004 9:51 pm

Allen, Holy Moses! Ark, I blew it. You’re right. But, it is a rationalizable mistake – at least by me – in light of the facts that Noah and Moses both consist of 4 letters the 2nd of which are identical. Both Noah’s and Moses’ had mountains of interest, Ararat and Sinai, both containing the letter ‘a’ and both of which are pronounced in 3 syllables. And as if that wasn’t enough both guys had adventures that lasted forty days and forty nights. And when you fling as much shit as I do . . . well. . . – I throw myself upon your mercy. (<:)

Ken – February 11, 2004

Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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40 winks

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Oct 23, 2004 10:05 pm

Noah's boat was a lot bigger.
Reply from Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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