Missing Word: Looking at you America!

WPLN listener Chris from Monteagle, TN, has a definition that’s lost its word.

When I was in the navy fifty years ago, a friend whose father worked at the Museum of Natural History said that his father had come across a word in the unabridged dictionary that meant “to twitch nervously at one’s coverlet” but he lost the reference, and never found the word again. Do any of your sources know of this word?

At Says You! we use lots of references but haven’t been able to find this mystery word. So, we’re turning to our listeners to crowdsource. Do any of you know a word which means “to twitch nervously at one’s coverlet?” Any ideas on the source? Let us know!

4 replies
  1. Linda Ferrazzara
    Linda Ferrazzara says:

    Sounds rather like “the yips”; at least, that’s what I thought of when I read the definition. I know that currently “the yips” refers principally to golfers’ (or other athletes’) nervous twitches, so I thought that perhaps the phrase had once had a more generally applicable meaning. But search as I might, the oldest citation I can find doesn’t predate one from the early 1950s, and although that one seems to refer to a non-athletic case of nerves, it says nothing about specifically involving coverlets, or bedding of any kind. Obviously this isn’t the answer, but does it help at all? Ring any bells? Twitch any brain cells?

  2. David
    David says:

    Hypnagogic Jerking (also called hypnic jerking) is an involuntary twitch which occurs when a person is beginning to fall asleep, often causing them to jump and awaken suddenly for a moment. I would imagine these kinds of twitches would most likely occur around a coverlet, but I don’t think this would be the word you’re looking for.

  3. Raymond Lockley
    Raymond Lockley says:

    Gee, looking for just one word, all that comes to mind is fasciculation, but that’s not precisely it. The reference to one’s coverlet suggests to me that it’s that twitch or jerk that happens right before one falls asleep. The phrases that I’ve heard for this are hypnic jerks or hypnagogic startles (or more generally, myoclonus twitches).

  4. Ralph McCaskey
    Ralph McCaskey says:

    This reads like a new category begging to be used. Words Invented While You Wait.! (WIWYW)
    (“Neo-neologisms….?” “Insta-logisms?” )


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