Tag Archives: furniture

Matched set

A Boxing Day in the life of a word nymph:

She didn’t hit the mall at all this week, opting instead to stay home and gorge herself on fattening leftovers. She contemplated why a family of two—expanded to four for the holiday—needed three pecan pies, seven pounds of ham (after having cancelled her ham order when another appeared on the doorstep), a large turkey breast, two smoked salmon filets, two crates of oranges, and infinite cookies, truffles, nonpareils, candied nuts and salted caramels. She is now prepared for the Blizzard of 2012, when she’ll be cast in the role of Snowman.

She’s not just stocked with with comestibles, but with readables as well. She received several new wordie books this season, so prepare for meaty discussions on such things as Anguished English. Meanwhile, though, we find her struggling with storage:

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the lucky recipient of a panoply of reference books on all things wordish. Readers from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Rome, Georgia, have sent me their treasured tomes, which I’m proud to display prominently in my office.

I have two bookcases here, one devoted to fiction and frivolity and another to my profession and my hobby, so intertwined that they mingle well on the shelves.

About halfway through this year, my collection of communications-related material officially exceeded its shelving capacity. I knew that a set of nice bookends would allow me to expand stylishly to the top of the bookcase.

When Santa was unable to process my request for bookends, perhaps because they were too heavy for the sleigh, I took matters into my own hands. For years I’ve considered what kind of decorative bookends would suit me best. This is where you come in.

For background, I almost feel as though I should take you on a tour of my office, much like Vanity Fair’s monthly spotlight on the contents of various celebrities’ desks, but I’ll save that for another day. For this exercise, let me say simply that my office features two predominant themes, reflecting my interests in the written word and international travel. There is also a host of old family treasures and several pieces of hand-made pottery of varying origin.

After Christmas I embarked on an online dig for the right bookends. I have a pair waiting in an Amazon.com shopping cart. Right now, they’re my first choice but, before I finalize the deal, I’d thought I’d solicit your input.

Here’s the space in which they will go, followed by five finalists. Which ones do you find most suitable for a well-traveled, slighly off-balance word geek?

The space

A to Z

Leaning Ladies

Porch of the Maidens Acropolis

Roman Colosseum

Stop Hand


Filed under Hearth and Home, Reading

Any way you couch it

Over the past week I’ve solicited suggestions for topics to cover here. It’s my version of taking requests. While I chew on those having to do with synchronicity, semantic infiltration and the origin of “draconian,” I thought I’d start off with an easier one.

Sue wrote: “How about writing a blog on the use of couch, sofa, divan?”

I don’t know precisely what Sue would like to know, but I have two initial observations. One is that, while the proper name for this piece of furniture is “sofa,” many people call it–correctly or incorrectly–a couch. My other reaction is that there appear to be so many other names for this object. Immediately I thought of about half a dozen.

So, Sue, jump in and take this conversation wherever you like. In the meantime, I’ll follow the two threads.

I was brought up to say “sofa,” which doesn’t make it right, but it also happens to be what furniture stores call it. They would know. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe you would ever enter a store—in person or online—and see something called a couch.

Isn’t “couch” is just a sloppy way to refer to a “sofa?”

I suspect “couch” comes from the French verb, coucher, or to lie down (I think that’s what it means; It could mean more, as in “Voulez vous coucher…”) When I hear “couch,” I envision someone lying, not sitting. A couch is where you spend a Sunday afternoon, watching football or, in my case, working the Sunday crossword under a fuzzy blanket for a committed period of time. Otherwise, with or without someone sitting on it, it’s a sofa.

What else could it be? As Sue points out, it could be a divan. I had an aunt and uncle who called theirs a divan, a term I thought was perhaps unique to their generation. Apparently,” divan” is Turkish in origin; how it got from Turkey to my aunt and uncle is unknown to me. If memory serves, these same relatives might also have called it a Davenport, which I understand was a brand name (like the Norge).

I understand Canadians call theirs a chesterfield.

As far as I know, chesterfields, divans, Davenports, couches and sofas are pretty much alike structurally. Then you get into your settees, love seats, fainting couches and futons.

I can speculate about how these variations came about, whether they are separated by generations, by regions or by structural properties. Better yet, The Word Detective explores this matter in much more detail, so let’s benefit from his research. If that doesn’t do it for you, there are many more blogs that delve into all the nuances.

Or you can consult this sofa and living room furniture glossary. Notice, nowhere in the glossary will you find “couch.”