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14 September 2009

You are not a couch potato

Madame Recamier on an Empire-period couch, painted by David, c. 1800

You are a SOFA potato.


The couch is a form of bench used since ancient times. One could use it for lounging, dining, and sleeping. It was backless - although the Romans did use a version with a partial back - with one or two end supports.

Ancient Egyptian couch found in King Tutankhamun's tomb


The sofa on which you so love to sprawl while watching the Real Housewives on Bravo has a back and two armrests the same height. One of the earliest versions dating to the early 17th century is the so-called Knole sofa named after the eponymous Sackville ancestral home in Sevenoaks, Kent.

A Knole sofa at Upton House, Warwickshire

The Knole's high armrests, which dropped down for more comfortable snoozing, offered protection from drafts and are said to have provided privacy from the prying eyes of servants.

A duchesse brisée

One day I hope to be a duchesse brisée potato, which is a chaise longue (that's long chair, NOT chaise lounge!) with the foot end enclosed (which is just a duchesse) AND then brisée, i.e. broken into two or three parts: a bergère and footstool(s).

14 comments:

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I'll join you on an adjacent duchesse brisée, and we can share books and chat.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

....while we pop ballet slipper pink and eau-de-nil sugared almonds.

Toby Worthington said...

Thanks for telling the world to stop pronouncing
it as Shea's Lounge, which signifies the restrooms at
a baseball stadium rather than a Chair that is Long.
I have a chaise tres longue, perfect for snoozing or pining away in a sort of Dame aux Camellias way, but my cat has appropriated it...

Reggie said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I cringe when I hear people referring to sofas as couches and only through violent self control do I refrain from correcting them (since it rarely elicited the expected gratitudinous response when I did so in the past). Also, you nailed the chaise longue malapropism! As long as we're at it, another pet peeve of mine is fancifying (or "refayning") the pronunciation of perfectly serviceable words -- when is a vase a vahz? Never! And another thing...would someone please put a stop to the widespread mispronuncation of Lauren (when referring to the merchant) as rhyming with the last name of Sophia Loren? I can't imagine RL thought people would pronounce it that way after he went to all the trouble of changing it from Lifshitz.

Blue said...

What can I say except thank you? Did this come out of your teaching a class? I love Chase Lounge - desecrator-speak in Atlanta. The best was settay.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

O Mr. Worthington, yours is a chaise longue worthy of a queen - and a queen it has found in Coco!

Reggie - My pleasure! One of my most annoying traits is correcting people, and I too have learned to curb my tongue. BUT I do think it's sort of a wonderful irony that someone who has WASP-ified himself has in turn become a victim of the Hyacinth Buckets (or, as she says, "Bouquet") of the world...

Blue, how did you guess?! I think I will bring it up again in the Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome lect"settee, now that you mention it....not on my watch!

EEE

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Such a pet peeve of mine! So happy you addressed the subject.
Sofa? Oui. Couch? Absolument Pas!

soodie :: said...

Couch, to me, always seemed like a dirty, crass word when used these days. ??? But EEE, i'll totally join you on a sofa to watch most any Bravo show.....

pve design said...

I secretly covet a Barcelona day bed or chair. Something about the modern sleek lines and the thought of reclining there, pouring out my soul.

Shandell's said...

My grandparents had a Knole's sofa, I miss it so much. I do have the companion chairs that went with it. It was amazing, 3 cushions long, you could curl up and get lost in it.

Reggie said...

"Hyacinth", as in "yes I know its spelled Bucket but its pronounced Bouquet" is a much-beloved parlor game in our house, frequently indulged in with weekend guests over lazy afternoon cocktails. One of my favorites is "yes, I know its spelled Verder but its pronounced Von Thurn Und Taxis!"

C said...

'Privacy from the prying eyes of servants', surely not to just watch Real housewives? Primetime must have really been alot more interesting then:)

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I have to agree with you there - if I ever had my portrait painted it would be within the confines of a duchesse brisee in a navy blue!

Cote de Texas said...

i do think the sofa vs couch is a regional thing. but i always say chaise lounge. what a yokel!!! never again!!!!! and such a smile thinking of Ms. Bucket. hehe!!!