Count sheep!

Welcome to the Idioms blog on

I have created this blog to advance the proposition that most idioms (defined narrowly as phrases whose meaning cannot be determined by analyzing the “words” in them) are transliterated (not translated) from a foreign language directly into common words of the target language.

The picture above was selected at random by WordPress. It contains sheep. Therefore, the first idiom to be discussed is “count sheep !” (to help one go to sleep).

Sometimes both transliteration and translation are involved. “Count sheep !” seems to be the translation of a Hebrew transliteration pun, S’PoR KeVeS, on the Latin phrase sopor quies = sleep quietly, restfully (without moving). A soporific is a drug that makes you sleep. Quiescent means quiet, still or inactive. (U and V are the same letter in Latin.) This idiom has been borrowed back into Israeli Hebrew as LiSPoR K’VaSim, to count sheep (plural).

Other idioms will be discussed in later posts.


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