Friday, September 20, 2013

To Sleep

Not long ago I stepped into an elderly neighbor's house. She was taking a nap, and a relative had left a bowl of soup with a short note ("I brought this soup for you, but you were to sleep.")

Ocracokers routinely use "to" when mainlanders use "at." For example, "She works to the Post Office," or "He's down to the store right now."

I wondered if "asleep" is a contraction of "at sleep"...and if islanders (who still retain many old world English expressions) would have historically said "to sleep" rather than "at sleep." That would explain how the expression "to sleep" has been preserved here, even into the 21st century.

According to the "a" in "asleep" is "a reduced form of the Old English preposition on, meaning “on,” “in,” “into,” “to,” “toward,” preserved before a noun in a prepositional phrase, forming a predicate adjective or an adverbial element ( afoot; abed; ashore; aside; away )...."

Interesting least I find it interesting!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an account of the recent skirmishes islanders have had with North Carolina legislatures over the issue of ferry tolls...and a 1955 newspaper editorial advocating free, state-operated ferries across Hatteras Inlet. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous9:43 AM


  2. Anonymous6:21 PM

    In the Mohawk Valley of New York, locals likewise often use "to" instead of "at," making for some sentences sounding odd to the uninitiated and annoying to the high-brow. "She is up to the store." Growing up 70 miles downriver, I never heard such a thing.

  3. Anonymous1:03 AM

    Did you not take the opportunity to for an evening walk on the beach to witness the harvest moon rise this year? If so, were you smart to bring your phone to capture an image??Hopefull

    1. I wasn't on the island on the night of the full moon...but I did make time to enjoy it.