Pulp Terms: The Big Sleep
“Big House” – A term used to refer to a prison.
What does the term “The Big Sleep” mean?
The phrase “The Big Sleep” as a reference to death originated in the 1939 Raymond Chandler novel of the same name. It was popularized by the 1946 film adaptation of the novel, which starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. To my knowledge this is the first literary reference that specifically references death as “The Big Sleep”.
Other Uses of “The Big Sleep” as a reference to death in media
- “The Big Sleep” (1978 film), directed by Michael Winner and starring Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe.
- “The Big Sleep” (1978 song) by Van Morrison
- “The Big Sleep” (2010 song) by The Black Keys
- “The Big Sleep” (2011 film), a contemporary adaptation of the Chandler novel.
And of course, “The Big Sleep” has been a euphemism in many pulp fiction works
The phrase “The Big Sleep” as a reference to death was first popularized by Raymond Chandler in his 1939 novel of the same name. He was a leading figure in the hard-boiled detective genre and, since then, other pulp writers have used the phrase to refer to death in their own works.
Some examples include:
- Mickey Spillane in his Mike Hammer series of detective novels, where the phrase is used several times to refer to death.
- Dashiell Hammett in his novel “Red Harvest” uses the phrase to refer to death.
- Ross Macdonald in his Lew Archer series also uses the phrase as a reference to death.