This selection is from a gift to the collection from a charming friend of mine who is otherwise known as the “king of the nap.” This fabulous book is titled Bed Manners, and Better Bed Manners. The cover claims that the book will tell you “how to bring sunshine into your nights,” and proclaims to have “many devilish illustrations.” Too bad you can’t see them all.
1946: How to Invite Somebody to Bed
You “date yourself” far more by what you say than by the way you look. The use of worn-out language (especially slanguage) is fatal to the best efforts of your barber and tailor, your gymnasium instructor, and all the others who try to make you seem youthful and sprightly. And if you’re a lady ~ why, you may spend your allowance ten times over at the modiste’s and the beauty parlor, and still be recognized for a grandmother if you use a grandmother’s wise-cracks.
If you say: “Let us retire!” you date from the 1870s.
If you say: “Let’s hit the hay!” you date from the 1880s.
If you say: “How about pounding your ear?” or speak of your bed as “the feathers,” you are using slang of nearly as ancient vintage. To speak of going to bed as “flopping” is also not very new. In fact there is nothing safer and more modern to say than “Let’s go to bed.”
But people do get tired of saying this over and over again, especially if they have to say it several times every evening, before good results are attained. Comical bishops in English novels usually vary it by making up a phrase such as “Let’s all go to Bedfordshire!” But this also is old.
To be thought young and dashing you need a wholly new piece of slang. It is always piquant to make it up yourself, and not depend on seeing it in the newspaper, or overhearing it at a party. Here is the way to proceed:
It was funny to call a bed “the hay” for a few years after the mattress was stuffed with hay. But your mattress is now stuffed with selected South American horsehair, full of correctly tempered hourglass springs, and magically insulated with fleecy felt. If you don’t believe us, cut it open. Or read the advertisement of that mattress.
You would surprise and perhaps charm almost anybody, even your husband, if instead of saying “Let’s hit the hay!” you said: “Let’s hit the selected South American horsehair, full of correctly tempered hour-glass springs, etc., etc.” But maybe this is too long to learn by heart ~ and it certainly won’t sound funny twice.
What you need, to refresh your way of speaking, are some good, reliable words that mean “bed.” A short list includes bunk, berth, pallet, crib, cot, shakedown, lit (French) and palang(Hindu). Then you want a few good words that mean “lie down,” “yawn,” “snore,” “take a rest,” and so forth. You might trust the dictionary, but never trust a dictionary too far. Or you will find yourself saying to some startled person, who never went to school in Boston, something that he or she won’t understand.
Only if your wife was a Boston girl can you say:
“I am somniferous. Are you statuvolvent? Shall we oscitate in our palang?”
It is really simpler to say: “Let’s go to bed.”
Source: Hopton, Ralph Y. and Anne Balliol. Bed Manners and Better Bed Manners. New York: Arden Book Company, 1934.
~ pp. 53-55 ~