Re: Why is the letter Z associated with sleep?

In today’s column, The Master relates the following:

My dad and I are American, we speak English, and when he snores, it sounds like a wounded bear armed with a chainsaw trying to fight off a pack of wolves!

I can totally see the different sounds giving rise to varying onomatopoeias, especially in other cultures. My favorites are the different sounds animals (dogs, ducks, and pigs being some of the most interesting) make when written into comic form.

Japanese manga and the European stories translated for Heavy Metal magazine are an excellent source of such things if you’re as easily amused by this as I am.

I just have to say that Lucy and Sophie Say Goodbye is a really hot comic

In all my 63 years of Britishness I have never, EVER heard the phrase: “Catching some zeds”, as a term for sleeping, as mentioned in the article. I would be interested to know where that was dug up from! :confused:

I believe it’s a riff on the Quarter Pounder with cheese line from Pulp Fiction.

Maybe collecting Rip Torn lines from Men in Black?

Cecil might have been whooshing you. In the U.S. we pronounce the letter Z like “zee” and not “zed”. We often say “catching some Z’s” (prononced “zees”) to imply we are going to sleep. Cecil might have been humorously pointing out the differences in the two pronunciations of the letter.

The article will tell you the answer:

Fierra, British citizen born and bred, has heard people refer to it as “catching some zeds.” I’ve also heard it in the UK, rarely. She didn’t tell Cecil it was the most common use, just that she’s heard it such, so Cecil is having a bit of fun there.

I hear it occasionally.

I, for one, LIKE the sound of “catching some A’s”, and plan to start using it.

I think the Z fits the idea of sawing lumber–at least with a chainsaw. The motors of such always have that sibilance.

I invented a mythical creature called the Winkertoo. Sleeping is the only means of catching this prized beast.

I’ve also heard the term: sawing logs.

Catching a few Zs has always seemed like one of those backwards idioms to me, since they are obviously escaping. Freeing some Zs has a nice ring to it, but I won’t lose any sleep if it doesn’t catch on.

Great column - and congrats to Una and Samclem for their contributions.

I too have never heard ‘catching some zeds’ (Englishman in my 60s) and I think for pretty obvious reasons. Catching some zs is an American phrase, it isn’t normally heard in the UK. Clearly there would be exceptions and the z may well become zed when used by a Britisher. But IMHO it would be by a Britisher with no ear for these things. Zeeees as a sound conveys rather well the idea of sleeping, zeds falls with a dull clunk on the ear and destroys the effect of the original.

I say “catch some Z(ed)s” quite often, and I’ve never had anyone think it’s an odd turn of phrase.

I disagree with the chainsaw theory. “sawing logs” is a pretty accurate approximation of the sound, the rhythmic push/pull of the saw corresponding with the inspiration/expiration cycle.

To my ear, the sound a hand saw makes going through a board is close to ZZZZZ ZZZZZ ZZZZZ, and it is how I would represent that sound, so catching some ZZZZs makes perfect sense to me.

I do agree that the ZZZZs in question ARE in fact escaping and not being caught, so I plan to start using “free some ZZZZs” along with “catch some AAAAs” . . . but then I have always been eccentric.

I’ve heard Aussies say, “catching some zeds.”

I currently live in China, and I’ve seen highway safety signs where “zzzz” is used to depict sleeping. If there are other signs using “hu lu” sounds depicting sleeping, I wouldn’t recognize it because I can’t read Chinese.

I want to change the spelling to zleepy.
I’ll get a head start now on my anti-gno friends.

I suppose the “catch some Zs” phrase refers to the urgency of sleep. There’s a limited amount of snoring that can be done before the day’s activities, so each moment spent awake is a Z not caught (or emitted). I thought “get some shuteye” may have preceded it, but according to the urban dictionary it only became popular after the third Naked Gun film.

As for animal noises, I like “nyan nyan” for the noise cats make. I’m unaware of other ones though.

I suspect I’m being whoosed here, but shut-eye is known from 1899.

I more often hear “bag some Zs” or “grab some Zs.”