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English Phrases for Saying “Good Night” Posted by on Dec 30, 2020 in English Grammar, English Language, idioms

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay, CCO

One of the first phrases we learn in any language is how to say, “Good night.” As with “Hello” and “How are you?”, saying “Good night” is not only an essential phrase but also something which can be said in many different ways. In English, we have some colorful ways to wish someone a good night. And, in some cases, there are interesting stories behind those phrases.

Good Night and Goodnight

Let’s start, however, with the common confusion between good night and goodnight. There is no such confusion with the greetings of Good day, Good morning, and Good afternoon. These are always two-word greetings. Good is an adjective modifier for the nouns day, morning, afternoon, evening, and night. We only encounter a problem with goodnight because, as one word, it exists as a noun. I may wish you a good night, or I may give you a goodnight kiss. Equally, if I say good night to members of my family, I can say that I gave them my goodnights.

But, you may be thinking, what about Goodbye? Why is that always spelled as one word? Why can’t I wish someone a good bye?

Good question! In fact, the word bye is an abbreviation of the word goodbye. Wishing someone a good bye is the same as wishing someone a good goodbye, and that would be redundant.

What About the Bedbugs?

I began this blog by talking about some of the more interesting phrases we use to wish someone a good night. Sometimes I learn the history of something and feel compelled to share that news with the world. That is the case with this blog. I learned the origin of a common saying and just had to share it!

All my life I have heard the phrase, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” I always thought that it was a funny (though rather creepy) little rhyme that adults say to children at bedtime. It turns out, however, that the phrase is historically significant.

Sleep tight is a variant on the phrase sleep tightly. It was believed that the phrase referred to rope foundations that were used to hold a mattress to a frame before the invention of the innerspring mattress. These ropes often needed to be pulled taught, or tightly, to prevent the mattress from sagging. A sagging mattress would not make for a good night’s sleep.

Canopy beds, with netting to keep bugs and other critters out, are more likely the origin of the old saying. The four-poster canopy bed was a necessity of life in buildings with thatched roofs, which could attract any manner of unwanted pests. With a covering of curtains securely tied to the bedposts, anyone in such a bed would sleep better knowing that they were protected from bugs.

It is also common to wish someone to sleep Snug as a Bug in a Rug. Snug means to be cozy, warm, comfortable, and somewhat confined. Bugs seek out the warmth and security of being beneath a rug. Again, the rhyme is cute but the imagery might be a little unsettling.  

Nighty-Night

The phrase, “Nighty-night” is commonly said to children, although adults might say, night-night to each other – particularly to a spouse or lover. There is a lovely old song, Dream a Little Dream of Me:

Say nighty-night and kiss me

Just hold me tight and tell me you’ll miss me

While I’m alone and blue as can be

Dream a little dream of me.

Other Common Ways to Say Good Night

  • Sweet Dreams!
  • Pleasant Dreams!
  • Don’t be a sleepy head! (Usually said to someone who can’t fall asleep.)
  • Lights out for now!

Do you have a favorite way to wish someone a good night?

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