The night owl: Lucubrator

I think a can safely say, we have all been there at some point, burning the midnight oil.

If you think about it there are lots of turns of phrases to describe the late night vigil. It has become cliche to say “being a night owl,” “burning the candle at both ends,” “pulling an all-nighter,” and yet we say them for lack of better words to describe staying up until the wee hours of the morning pouring over books and paper in the blue glow of computer light.

But I have just found the long lost word that articulates this ritual that all students young or old participate in.

Lucubrator: a person who studies by night, or by candlelight. –Leo de Colange’s Zell’s Popular Encyclopedia, 1871.  [I suppose we could say computer light or iPod light nowadays and it have it be similar to candlelight]*

So now, instead of struggling over cliches and other idioms, you can use a forgotten English word to baffle and confuse your readers!

Happy Writing or Reading!

*Kacirk, Jeffrey. Forgotten English. 2011.


About LizzyBeth

There is a Story inside of me that I must give a voice. I write so that imagination can take me to Faerie and I can catch a glimpse of the Otherworld and hopefully so will you.

Posted on February 3, 2012, in Cliches, Humor, Rachel Burkholder, Words, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. OK, I can call it a night. I learned a new word today. 🙂

  2. One bone of contention there. I may not know the exact origins of the phrase ‘night owl’, but today it is used to describe someone who ENJOYS staying up late at night, and a perpetual state of being. That’s very different from ‘burning the candle at both ends’, ‘pulling an all-nighter’, or ‘burning the midnight oil’, all of which suggest staying up well past a regular and preferred sleep hour to complete some bit of important work or another, and also describe one-off events.

    As an example, I am a night owl. If I didn’t have to get up in the morning to go to work, I’d gladly stay up until 4 AM, sleep until noon, and have three square meals a day at 1 PM, 7 PM, and 1 AM. That being said, I have never once ‘burned the midnight oil’. I prefer to get my work done in the afternoons, so I can enjoy my evenings.

    • I understand your point. A night owl tends to have a more positive connotations to staying up late, while burning the midnight oil seems rather droll. Yet while I was in school I considered myself a night owl because I was staying up late reading and studying. I enjoyed it…
      So, I hope that you can understand that this crazy bookworm’s love of studying made her a night owl 🙂

      • Ah, but did you stay up late because you wanted to, because you honestly just didn’t feel sleepy, and reading and studying were just the forms of entertainment that took up your time, or were you staying up late because that was the only time you had to read these things that you really NEEDED to read, and you also enjoyed them?
        The former makes you a night owl, and I suspect you always were one who simply didn’t get a chance to discover it. The latter means you burned the midnight oil, and simply had the blessing of enjoying what you were doing as well.

      • Colin…I’d have to say that it is a little bit of both.

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