I chanced on this expression while reading a book by David Crystal. In a chapter dedicated to words that have disappeared from the English language, he mentions this gem in Samuel Johnson's Dictionary:

A curtain-lecture was "a reproof given by a wife to her husband in bed".

I had imagined the phrase referred to the drawing of the bedroom curtains at night. However, World Wide Words tells me that it derived from the four poster bed with its canopy and curtains.

Is there a more modern day <an ink illustration dated 1637 depicting a wife talking to her husband while they are in a four poster bed.> equivalent of this phrase? Because speaking as a once married woman, I confess I used to choose bedtime to have these "in-depth discussions" with my ex (and even today with my current boyfriend).

Failing that, I'd also appreciate any amusing and witty neologisms. Thanks very!

Image: A Curtaine Lecture by Thomas Heywood. London, 1637. The text says the following

When wives preach, tis not in the Husbands power to have their lectures end within an hower. If Hee with patience stay till shee have donn. Shee’l not conclude till twyce the glass Hee runn.

  • It is general but henpecking is related. – ermanen Oct 21 '14 at 15:21
  • @Mari-LouA: I'm sure that mild reprimand turns into henpecking :) [present company excepted]. Curtain lecture is mentioned as scolding or nagging in bed also. So it has negative aspects in it. WorldWideWords says that it is not completely disappeared but I never heard of it also. How about "bedtime nagging"? :) – ermanen Oct 21 '14 at 15:34
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    I'm sure you're not like that :) But the Johnson definition did call it a reproof, so negativity is certainly in view here. – chiastic-security Oct 21 '14 at 15:37
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    Likely the term fell out of favor because the activity did. There's little or no social inhibition about criticizing your male partner (or female partner for that matter) in front of the rest of the family any more, so a special term for doing so in that one particular place isn't really needed. – T.E.D. Oct 21 '14 at 16:52
  • Don't you just love the "alarm clock" on the bedside table? :) – Mari-Lou A Oct 22 '14 at 2:44

While it isn't usually restricted to reproofs, Pillow Talk is a more current term for discussions in bed between a husband and wife.


I suppose home truths would be somewhere near the mark, though not restricted to husband and wife, or to the bedroom.

A home truth is an unpleasant fact about yourself that someone tells you without any attempt to moderate or excuse it: she was so annoyed when he finally came back that she decided to tell him a few home truths.

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    Can you please provide a definition and link for this expression? I never heard of it. – Kristina Lopez Oct 21 '14 at 15:24
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    @KristinaLopez I've added a link and an example for you. – chiastic-security Oct 21 '14 at 15:34
  • Ah! I'm sure there were many "home truths" shared in those "curtain lectures"! lol! – Kristina Lopez Oct 21 '14 at 16:05

Probably the expression, 'don't wash your dirty laundry in public which refers to the fact that couples should argue about their personal problems privately, in the intimacy of their home.

  • People, especially couples, who argue in front of others or involve others in their personal problems and crises, are said to be washing their dirty laundry in public; making public things that are best left private. (In American English, 'don't air your dirty laundry in public' is used.)

First thing coming to mind was a "bedroom brawl" but I think that's already used to describe what sometimes follows "curtain lectures," so how about a "boudoir dressing-down"?

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    I was going for hidden/in private with gloved, not soft, but it's true, a gloved finger is still visible to all so "mittened" would have been better, but that still doesn't get us back to the bedroom! Oh well, I tried! – Papa Poule Oct 21 '14 at 17:07
  • Oh, have another try though! – Mari-Lou A Oct 21 '14 at 17:09
  • I'd add this as a comment at the top, but don't have the 50 rep needed for that, so here goes: "a boudoir dressing-down"... seems like "dressing-down" would be appropriate, even if there's something better than "boudoir." – Papa Poule Oct 21 '14 at 17:31
  • Edit your answer, it's quite clever. – Mari-Lou A Oct 21 '14 at 17:35
  • Thanks so much for your encouragement! Fun question! Here's one final neologistic phrase containing its very own neologistic word (a double neologism? or just me getting silly?) for your list: "A nightgown dressdown"(one word, no hyphen, like 'smackdown'). – Papa Poule Oct 21 '14 at 21:19

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