Some of my students are night owls, and sometimes it happens that they haven’t gone to bed yet and I am already awake again. I often have sudden thoughts about lessons at 3.30 am, and as my study is right next to the bedroom, it seems easier to pop over and, well, start work. It’s also true that – as you all know – although I love my students to bits, some weeks there are an awful lot of people, all with their needs and wishes, in my head and I can’t shut off my thoughts in the middle of the night.

Of course, all that is water under the bridge. I woke up the day before yesterday after sleeping for a clear eight hours with hardly moving and said to Horst (who had just woken up too) “Well, we are sleeping like tops!” and realized in the same breath that a) he had probably never heard that before and b) why should a top sleep well? The ‘top’ we are talking about here is a toy, a spinning top, and apparently the idea is that when a top spins really fast, it appears not to be moving at all.


Like many English phrases and idioms, we can thank good old Shakespeare for this one. Or at least partly, and at least the first written example of it, in The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613-14) by Shakespeare and John Fletcher. We can also, by the way, sleep like logs all night but still get forty winks after lunch, hit the sack early but then get out of bed the wrong side and need a catnap during the day.

To put my cards on the table, I’m not such a fan of teaching idioms. They seldom seem the real McCoy when used by a non-native speaker. And over the past years many have fallen out of fashion, and new ones have stepped up to the plate.

Speaking of which, I want to apologize publicly to Squirrel Winfried. After Horst had made him the lovely new feeding station, he continued feeding from the bird feeder. I mentioned this to several people, and that I thought he was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Maybe even a sandwhich short of a picnic.

To put it in a nutshell – I was wrong!

I’m writing this on Maundy Thursday, a day on which for the last million years in England the Monarch has distributed ‘Maundy’ Money to worthy citizens. I may be stretching the truth there, it’s not been a million years. just since 1213. (Facts may be found here:

It’s the day before Good Friday. That the very saddest day of the Christian calender is called ‘Good’ in English never fails to astonish my students. There are some possible explanations here:

As a child, the highlight of Good Friday were Hot Cross Buns:

I wasn’t so keen on the traditional activity on the Isles of Scilly, which was going winkling:

However you will be spending the next few days, Happy Easter and STAY WELL!

The Cabin Fever Part:

Online idiom quiz:

1500 idioms, A-Z:

3 thoughts on “Sleeping like tops

  1. Hi Carys,
    I did not understand correctly who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer:
    Horst because he feeds, or Winfried because he eats ;-)) the old way?

    Have a nice Eastertime and keep healthy



  2. I thought that Winfried was not the sharpest, because he didn’t use his feeding station.
    Horst is, of course, always extremely sharp;)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s