slumber

A word for sawing logs… zzzz. Does this word actually have anything to do with slum or lumber? Well, if you’re dog tired from a day in the sweatshop, you can lumber into your slum and slumber, but otherwise, no, not directly. But there is that heaviness (so humble and bumbling) that you also get with lump and slump, here with the blunted edge of the [b]. This is a word you could manage to mumble out when nudged in a somnolescent state. And then, when you’ve rolled over, the snore rumbles. This word is pure Germanic, cognate with Dutch sluimeren and German schlummern – in English we denasalized the [m] before releasing to the [r], making an epenthetic [b]. So you get a sound like a dozy inhalation – slum – and then a puff back out through loosely closed lips – ber. Ah, that delightful dozy state leading into a midday nap, perhaps concluded when the minister calls for the hymn after the sermon. But, listen, sisters, what word do you think is this one’s favourite playmate? Why, it’s that darling of the sleeper set, and so unquiescent: party.

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