Revenge bedtime procrastination

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Tweet by Daphne K. Lee:

bàofùxìng áoyè


revengeful staying up late at night

"Áoyè 熬夜" is a really neat, vivid expression. The "yè 夜" part just means "night", but the "áo 熬" part is really cool (or maybe I should say "hot"). It may be translated as "boil; stew; simmer; decoct; cook something on a slow fire; cook down; extract something by heating; drag on; hold out; endure", so when you áoyè 熬夜, you're "boiling / stewing / simmering the night [away]".

It's not entirely clear to me where the idea of "procrastination" comes in. The phrase more literally implies staying up late at night to take revenge for all the boring, meaningless, distasteful things you had to do during the day. Áoyè is something that college and university students do a lot of. Usually it's when they're trying to write a paper, catch up on reading they should have done earlier, cram for an exam, etc.). Often accompanied by snacks (pizza, Insomnia Cookies, etc.). Depending upon how long the áoyè 熬夜 goes on, the term can also be translated as "(pull an) all-nighter".

The next day you're wasted.

[Thanks to Marc Alberts]


  1. vivian said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 11:54 am

    because of áo 熬, I tend to see 熬夜 as 'burning mid-night oil'. Sometimes pulling all-nighters drains the life out of ppl–life is burned away. Other times all-nighters are super productive work sessions–burning brings enlightenment.

  2. Michael said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 3:25 pm

    This pretty much defines my 30s.

  3. Juanma Barranquero said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 5:21 pm

    I think the procrastination comes from the idea that you don't stay late to *do* something useful, or to be productive. Just to get a little free time for you, to be lazy, read something, do something you enjoy, or nothing at all.

    I mean, if you are usually at home at 17:30, you won't feel the need. If you get home every day at 20:00 or even later, then yes, definitely. Been there, done that, drifted my bedtime hour to 02:00am, then 03:00am, had to force myself not to go (much) past that time, as the clock alarm set off at 07:00am.

  4. Diana S. Zhang said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 7:04 pm

    "Simmering the night away" or "burning mid-night oil" — either way sounds like any regular graduate student's life, especially during paper-writing periods!

  5. Keith said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 7:18 pm

    Perhaps "procrastination" should be parsed as having "bedtime" as its object–that is, bedtime is what you're putting off.

  6. Andrew Usher said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 7:41 pm

    Except that 'procrastination' is intransitive, as I know it. One could 'procrastinate about bedtime' but not *'procrastinate bedtime'.

    Neither the name nor the concept make sense to me, in fact.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo dot com

  7. Vilinthril said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 2:19 am

    For me (note: I'm one of those Very™ Online™ people), procrastinate most definitely can be used transitively.

  8. rosie said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 5:43 am

    For me, "procrastinate" implies putting something off at least until after you've gone to bed and woken up. Putting off going to bed is just staying up late.

  9. Philip Taylor said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 6:01 am

    I would agree with Rosie — the concept of "the next day" does seem to be implicit in the word : "Etymology: < classical Latin prōcrāstināt-, past participial stem (see -ate suffix) of prōcrāstināre to put off till the next day, to defer, delay < prō- pro- prefix1 + crāstinus belonging to tomorrow (see crastin, n.)".

  10. Gregory Kusnick said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 12:43 pm

    Putting off till after lunch chores that should have been done in the morning still counts as procrastination.

    I agree, though, that staying up late doesn't count, unless the reason for doing so is to put off chores that must be done before bedtime.

  11. Sophie MacDonald said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 1:24 pm

    I can't help but mention the wonderful book "At Day's Close: Night in Times Past" by A. Roger Ekirch (W.W. Norton & co., 2005), which discusses this particular issue beautifully and at length in the context of Western Europe in the Early Modern period, as well as among slaves in the antebellum American South.

  12. James Wimberley said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 3:00 pm

    "Seethe" has the right ambiguity in English. "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk" – Exodus 23:19, KJV. Adolescents do a lot of seething involving mothers.

  13. Ellen K. said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 3:01 pm

    @Andrew Usher

    Regardless of the grammar, when you procrastinate, there's something you are putting off doing.

    I do think the concept is procrastination of bedtime… putting off going to bed. I have no trouble with the idea that someone might think of it in those terms, even if for others it's just staying up late.

  14. Andrew Usher said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 6:10 pm

    Philip Taylor's argument from etymology is not convincing itself, for the same reason as the infamous 'decimate' complaint. Yes, the word will normally be used when the period of time alluded to is not encompassed by a single day, but I would hardly say that it is wrong to violate that.

    Still, the grammar of 'procrastinate' is precisely the reason that the title was confusing: its being intransitive means that 'bedtime procrastination' could only mean procrastination at bedtime, not about bedtime, a meaning that wouldn't have occurred to me without the explanation.

  15. M. Paul Shore said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 8:34 pm

    The OED (1st ed.), the Webster’s Third, and the American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.), just to cite three dictionaries I happen to have lying around, all fully recognize a transitive use of “to procrastinate” (though the OED rightly or wrongly characterizes that use as “[n]ow rare”, the “now” in question being circa 1909, when the fascicle containing that word was published). The OED and the W3 actually list the transitive sense before the intransitive sense, on the grounds that it’s the earlier-recorded of the two; the AHD lists it second, on the grounds that it’s the less common one.

    It seems to me, though, that there’s no need for us to squeeze our discussion of possible translations of 報復性熬夜 into the procrastian bedtime (as it were) of this one particular verb. How about “revenge bedtime postponement”?

  16. Philip Taylor said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 4:34 am

    Would someone who cannot decide whether or not to stay up late in order to compensate for a perceived loss of freedom in their daytime life be in a procrastean dilemma ?

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