Words: mattress, n.

NORA EPHRON'S cyberspace movie You've Got Mail is not the perfect romantic comedy which was its inspiration, The Shop Around the Corner. There are good touches: an allusion to the musical version, She Loves Me; Tom Hanks, a chain-store-owner, uses an IBM lap-top, Meg Ryan, an independent shop-owner, an Apple; and men's close knowledge of The Godfather, as in the advice "go to the mattresses" - sleeping on the floor before an offensive.

Absent from the OED, it figures in the Random House American Slang, but not until a 1976 instance, when it means something defensive, derived from mattresses as a shield against bullets. The Godfather perhaps echoes an old naval expression, to go to the mat - to settle a dispute by wrestling.

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