"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Friday, 15 February 2013


   When I was a child, if one rubbed one’s eyes upon waking up the natural question to be asked was ‘Have you got sleep in your eyes?”  ‘Sleep’ in that context was a colloquial word for gound, the matter that collects in the corner of the eyes or on the eyelashes when rheum dries.  Although gound and rheum are sometimes said to be synonymous they aren’t. Gound is solid matter whilst rheum is thin mucus naturally discharged as a watery substance from the eyes, nose, or mouth; the word rheum coming from the Greek for ‘to flow’.

All this probably comes under the heading ‘Things one didn’t wish to know!’


  1. In Sweden we talk about rubbing sleep out of one's eyes on waking up, but I never thought of it of having anything to do with any material substance.

    1. You're lucky, Monica. I seem to generate a lot of gound whilst asleep so naturally equated the word with the substance. Mum always referred to it as 'sleep' or 'sleepy dirt'.

  2. Replies
    1. I know them today, Don. If only I could remember them all tomorrow!