Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Episode 109: Dead of Night Show notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 109: Dead of Night

Record Date: April 25, 2021

Air Date: May 5, 2021



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Every week, we take an idiom, or other turn of phrase, and try to tell the story from it’s entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

An article ran across my news feed that got me thinking and it ultimately ended up being today’s episode. This was a CNN article titled, “Terror in southern England as dozens of much-loved trees are felled in the dead of night”. 


Cambridge Dictionary  

dead of night

the middle of the night, when it is very dark.

This is not incorrect, but I feel it is incomplete. 

Oxford English Dictionary gives additional information listed as one usage of the word dead: 

Dead period, season, or stage. 

As in - dead of night, dead of winter: the time of intensest stillness, darkness, cold, etc.; 

Oxford English Dictionary also offers that there is some correlation with the term ‘depth’ (as in - of winter) as well as other similarities found in the phrase: dead of neap, which means the extreme stage of neap tide. Said of the lowest or stillest state of the tide, as dead low water, dead neap

An alternate sense of the word dead from OED, is defined: 

Unrelieved, unbroken; absolute; complete; utmost.

These senses arise out of several other senses of the word ‘dead’ and in some cases, a blending of two or more notions. Examples of this are concepts relating to stillness, quiet, calm, lack of motion, and so on. The cross-referenced phrase dead of neap is a good representation of this. 

1548 Edward Hall · The vnion of the two noble and illustrate famelies of Lancastre [and] Yorke - often just called Halls Union

In the dedde of the night..he brake vp his campe and fled.

1582 Thee first foure bookes of Virgil his Æneis tr. intoo English heroical verse (translation by Richard Stanyhurst) 

Neere toe dead of midnight yt drew.

1613 Anthony Sherley · Sir Antony Sherley his relation of his trauels into Persia

My journey was under-taken in the dead of winter.

A1616 William Shakespeare · Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories & tragedies, from Twelfth Night

Viola tells Olivia how love should be made known: 

Make me a willow cabin at your gate

And call upon my soul within the house,

Write loyal cantons of contemnèd love,

And sing them loud even in the dead of night

1793 John Smeaton · A narrative of the building and a description of the construction of the Edystone Lighthouse

At dead of neap, when the tides run less rapid.

1808 The whim-whams and opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq., and others - commonly referred to as simply Salmagundi, this work was a 19th-century satirical periodical created and written by American writer Washington Irving, his oldest brother William, and James Kirke Paulding.

In the dead of winter, when nature is without charm.

This is a fairly short excerpt, but I wanted to highlight the continued use of winter and also, I just like it. It sounds lyrical or poetic… “In the dead of winter, when nature is without charm”

From the 1840 work by historian, essayist, and poet Thomas Babington Macaulay · Lord Clive

At dead of night, Clive marched out of the fort.

There was a bit of build-up there, for a somewhat less poetic excerpt. 

“Motto” of the Postal Service - 1914 (USPSblog)

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

While the Postal Service has no official motto, the popular belief that it does is a tribute to America's postal workers. This statement is chiseled in gray granite over the entrance to the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue. They come from Book 8, Paragraph 98, of The Persian Wars by Herodotus. During the wars between the Greeks and Persians (500-449 B.C.), the Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers who served with great fidelity.    

The firm of McKim, Mead & White designed the New York General Post Office, which opened to the public on Labor Day in 1914. One of the firm's architects, William Mitchell Kendall, was the son of a classics scholar and read Greek for pleasure. He selected the "Neither snow nor rain . . ." inscription, which he modified from a translation by Professor George Herbert Palmer of Harvard University, and the Post Office Department approved it.

The Fellowship of the Ring - by J.R.R. Tolkien, published in 1954 

Describing the character Gollum: 

He found he could hide from daylight and moonshine, and make his way swiftly and softly by dead of night with his pale cold eyes, and catch small frightened or unwary things.

There is another rather popular writer who uses this phrase throughout his works. It makes sense when considering the subject matter. While you think about which author this might be, let’s break for a quick thank you... 

A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons. 

Bunny Trails is and will always be free. But we are only able to make this content because of the awesome support of our Patrons like Pat Rowe and Mary Lopez. 

Because of Pat, Mary, and many others, you don’t have to pay a dime to enjoy Bunny Trails week after week. But even though Shauna and I volunteer our time, there are still real costs to making this show, including hosting fees, equipment maintenance, domain costs, and more. 

And we turn to you, our listening community, to help cover those costs. To do that, we use Patreon, a service that allows you to support the creators and artists you love. Our patrons get exclusive behind the scenes content, early access to episodes, and access to our videos so you can actually watch along as Shauna and I make the show. 

If you are in a financially stable place, and would like to support this educational artform, we encourage you to check out the options. We are bunnytrailspod on Patreon, or find links to everything we do at

Modern Uses


A Game of Thrones - by George R.R. Martin - Original copyright date of 1996 (excerpt from Penguin Random House

It made Bran's skin prickle to think of it. He remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and ghouls, stole girl children in the dead of night, and drank blood from polished horns.

Dead of the Night - released December 2018 (Call of Duty fandom wiki page)

"When a party at an English mansion turns into an undead bloodbath, a phony psychic, stage-show cowboy, retired general and bedeviled butler must fight for their lives." — Mission Briefing

Dead of the Night is the fifth Zombies map featured in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and the twenty-ninth map overall.

The map features a cast of new characters portrayed by celebrities as they find themselves fighting the undead in the midst of a scheme orchestrated by The Order in order to kidnap Alistair Rhodes during a party.

At Dead Of Night - Game on Steam - Release date Nov 19, 2020

At Dead Of Night is part horror film, part horror game and part ghost hunt. It seamlessly blends live-action and graphics to create a unique immersive horror experience like no other. You play Maya, a student trapped in a remote hotel run by a psychopath called Jimmy Hall. Jimmy has tied up Maya's friends and locked them in their rooms, with evil intentions. Maya has managed to escape, but Jimmy is on the prowl looking for her. However, to get him to release her friends, Maya must uncover Jimmy's dark secret. Using an ancient ghost voice receiver she finds, Maya must communicate with the ghosts of Jimmy's past, who materialise around the hotel and gradually reveal their story.

CNN Article - Updated April 24, 2021 - Terror in southern England as dozens of much-loved trees are felled in the dead of night

On a typical day, the picturesque district of Elmbridge would fit all the descriptors of any well-to-do English countryside locale: It's quiet, green and safe, a world away from the bustle of nearby London, and its residents take pride in its leafy landscapes and riverside views.

But these are not typical days in Elmbridge.

A chainsaw-wielding, tree-felling "maniac" has been roaming the sleepy region under cover of darkness, bringing down the area's greenery and mobilizing terrorized villagers to launch a surveillance operation in the hope of catching the offender.

The campaign of clandestine attacks began a month ago, and has rattled locals.

"I feel like he's playing a game with us," resident Cameron Flynn told CNN this week. "People are very confused by the whole situation ... Some people are scared because there's this maniac going around with a massive chainsaw, cutting trees."

Wrap up...

If you’ve been with us for any length of time, you know I love phrases like this one. In addition to dead of night being a lovely-sounding phrase, I enjoy the power it portrays. The absolute oppressive lack of a thing is difficult to put into words… dead of night does so wonderfully. 



That’s about all the time we have for today. We’d love to hear how you’ve seen this phrase used or how you’ve used it yourself. Find us on any of our social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram all @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website


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Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 


Words belong to their users.

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