In my country, when someone is sick, they might say they are keeping the bed from running away. That would mean, they feel so sick, they literally stay in the bed most of the day.

Is there an equivalent in English that depicts the humorous nature of this one?

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    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 2:00
  • If anyone is wondering, I believe the original language of the expression the OP is referring to is Bulgarian.
    – hb20007
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 9:18

9 Answers 9


It's not super common, but I have heard holding down the bed to mean "staying in bed for a long time". I don't think it necessarily implies illness, though; you could be holding down the bed just because you're lazy. Some example usages (bolding added):

And for anyone who thinks Lyme Disease is no big deal, I invite you to revisit a post I wrote last fall about the ugly, ugly realities of late stage Lyme - because I wouldn't wish this hell on anyone. Now hike up those socks and go have some fun for me. I'll be here at home, holding down the bed. (Source)

Had sickies around all last week, and am now sick myself. I have never been so sick! Gonna take me awhile to finish recovering, including housework! I at least looked over this last post, will be trying to think of creative ways to do these as I am holding down the bed! (Source)

To end this long and rambling story, I was sick and did not make the annual family Thanksgiving gathering. I did get a delivery of leftovers (Thanks Mom) but no family drama on the side. I spent the rest of the holiday holding down the bed or my miniature sofa. (Source)

However, it definitely isn't just used for illness. For some reason, this phrase as a synonym for "lying in bed" is especially popular for pets:

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It's not quite a set phrase; there are some examples of the version holding the bed down (which I just noticed @JimmyJames mentioned in a comment), but holding down the bed appears to be the more common choice for figurative use (for example, an image search of "holding the bed down" has pictures of truck beds much more prominently displayed than sleepy pets).

  • I think "holding down the bed" is the closest idiom provided here which has a similar connotation and slight twinge of humor.
    – Travis J
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 19:56

The idiomatic expression "bedridden" comes close to what you are referring to:

  • Confined to bed because of illness or infirmity

    • bouts of fever sometimes kept him bedridden for months at a time.
    • she was bedridden and unable to move her hands.


The expression is quite old:

  • also bed-ridden, mid-14c., from adjectival use of late Old English bæddrædæn "bedridden (man)," from bedrid, from Old English bedreda, literally "bedrider, bedridden (man)," from bed + rida "rider" (see ride (v.)).

  • Originally a noun, it became an adjective in Middle English and acquired an -en on the analogy of past participle adjectives from strong verbs such as ride.

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    Does this cover the humorous aspect of the original? Is this even an idiom? Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 14:45
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    'ridden' typically means that the subject is being ridden by the object. That is to say, if someone is flu-ridden, they are full of flu, it is 'on top of' them and taking control. Moth-ridden clothing is full of moths, etc. Oddly, the grounds keeper from Harry Potter, Hagrid, is derived from a medieval phrase, hag-ridden. Meaning someone has bad dreams, which was sometimes believed to be caused by witches, or 'hags'.
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 14:47
  • @Keeta - it is an idiomatic expression as close to the original as possible. I didn't say it is a perfect fit..is there one? Can you suggest anything ?
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 15:01
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    "Bedridden" is NOT an idiom. It's literal. It's an anachronism from when ridden and riding were used in larger contexts than horseback riding. For example, "flea-ridden" for an animal or person who has fleas. Everything about "bedridden" is correct; it's just incorrect to call it an idiom. An idiom is using metaphor or simile to describe something, like in Welsh to say it's raining hard, they say "It's raining old ladies and sticks", e.g. hard enough to knock a witch off a broom.
    – user192985
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 23:46
  • @CaitlynJohnston - I do think bedridden is an idiomatic expression . A you righly notice it refers to past usages which have survived only in idiomatic forms.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:00

English is for the most part lacking in highly specific idioms however one of it's strengths is that general idioms in different context can be quickly adapted and understood by native speakers.

User Josh61 ultimately gives the most specific idiom with the same meaning as yours with bedridden. However, this doesn't have any of the humorous overtones you were looking for.

Therefor, I would propose the following adaptations of 2 general idioms, (I've actually used both) that convey the same meaning when used by a sick person.

The first is Good friends.

These last couple days my bed and I have become good friends.

This suggests you've spent lots of time in bed but you're taking it in stride and can laugh at it.

The second would be Overly acquainted.

I've become overly acquainted with my bed this last week.

This suggests the same thing, lots of time in bed, but in a more annoyed and sarcastic way.

  • Like it. Maybe "best friends". Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 17:05

I would try something like "guarding the bed", "keeping the bed under watch"... surely not idiomatic, but understandable and conveying the humorous original meaning/intention.

(It's interesting that some say they wouldn't understand it, makes me wonder about the mother tongue. I'm Spanish, and though I don't think we have any similar saying, I do think we have similar enough word playing that it would be well understood, either the translation of these versions or of the original one - even if it was a one-off thing invented in the spur of the moment)

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    Perhaps this is closest to the idiom and if it is understandable by natives, it might be a good alternative. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 15:01
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    If you said that to me, I'd have no idea what you meant. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:43
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    The wording used in the question, "Keeping the bed from running away," is perfectly understandable. It comes across as a clever, playful, self-deprecating comment, but would be understood to mean "staying in bed." I've heard similar references to carpets, chairs, walls, and shoes, and it isn't much of a leap from there to beds. Saying that someone else is keeping the bed from running away might be considered a light insult, suggesting they were shirking duties and didn't need rest.
    – jejorda2
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:43
  • @jejorda2, usually it is used by the person themselves. Sometimes, it could also be used by relatives or very close people, but they would know whether the person would be offended or not. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 20:05

A somewhat similar phrase is "worshipping the porcelain god(dess)" which means (to be blunt) staying in the restroom kneeling near the toilet in case you need to vomit.

It's not quite as cute as your original phrase.


  • 1
    The question asks for an idiom, can you provide sources that substantiate your answer to make it an objective answer.
    – Helmar
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 16:32
  • I've also heard this simply called "speaking to God" partly because of the kneeling position but I always thought it was more to do with the echo-y nature of the toilet bowl. Another alternative that I think is closer to the original question is "hugging the toilet".
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 16:45
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    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:09
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    I always heard it referred to as "worshipping at the porcelain" altar, but that might be a regional variation. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 22:17
  • One of my favorites of this is "Calling Ralph on the Big White Phone" Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 22:48

Somewhat similar and probably rare and usually circulated in Christian circles.

Today, I have a meeting with Pastor Pillow and Sister Sheets.

It uses a typical term for a Christian leader (pastor and sister), but uses a last name of articles found on a bed. Thereby it refers to scheduled time in bed, probably asleep.

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    Can you provide reference to this usage. Or is it something specific to you and your friends? Plus it appears to be related more to sleeping rather than being ill.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 15:30
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    I've heard the joke "worshipping at Bedside Baptist with Pastor Sheets, preaching on the Comforter." Sources: dictionaryofchristianese.com/bedside-baptist-st-mattress urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Bedside%20Baptist Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 14:02
  • Ditto... I've heard "Bedside Baptist" and "Church of the Inner [box] Spring" as euphemisms for someone sleeping in on Sunday morning instead of going to church.
    – LarsH
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 18:17

The literally closest expression I can think of is holding down the fort, which simply means staying at same location for an extended period of time. It doesn't convey anything about being sick, but assuming the person you're speaking with already knows you're sick, it would be a reasonable response.

Q: "So, how's it been going?"
A: "Oh, I'm still holding down the fort here at home"

Focusing on the sickness aspect rather than the being in bed part should produce a lot of phrases in English, probably predominantly euphemisms for the actual act of vomiting. If I wanted to make light of having been so ill recently that I'd thrown up, I might pick one of:

  • driving the porcelain bus (gripping the toilet sides as though it were a steering wheel)
  • airing the diced carrots (a reference to the seemingly universal presence of carrots in vomit, regardless of how many days/weeks have passed since they were last consumed)
  • yawning for the hearing impaired (adding a visible dimension to an act that might otherwise look like a yawn if the observer were deaf)
  • shouting soup
  • out of stomach experience (parody of an out-of-body experience, where the narrator claims to have observed their own actions from a distance)
  • had a dodgy curry (when the cause was probably something that would not get as much sympathy)

Would any of these delightful imageries work on the average non-native English listener? Probably not, so pick your audience carefully with them..


No, I don't know of an equivalent idiosms, but there's a very similar term, with a very different meaning.

Prop up the barWiktionary

(idiomatic, informal, derogatory) To spend time drinking alcohol at the bar in a pub.

While you are propping up the bar, you're drinking at a bar, leaning against, not meaning being ill in bed at all. It is, however, similar because it suggests you're doing the bar itself a favour, instead of the other way round.

This doesn't mean being ill in bed (although it might mean that the day after), but I thought I'd mention this as it's a very similar idiom, constructed in the same way, reversing the relationship between a person and a piece of furniture.

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    Also similar in this vein: holding up the wall (i.e.: idly leaning against a wall).
    – Arluin
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 19:10
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    Poor answer, anyone using this phrase when intending to say they were sick in bed would convey a very different message.
    – Myles
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 19:16
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    @Myles Thank you very much for letting us know this, you're an inspiration to us all! In other news, if you read past the definition, you'll see that the same information is in the question, and that it was included because it is a similar idiom, not because it shares a meaning.
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 19:18
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    @AJFaraday In that case, poor answer in that it doesn't answer the question.
    – Myles
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 20:47
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    If you wanted to add some interesting information that was not an answer to the question, then a comment would be the best way to do this.
    – StuartQ
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 15:28

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