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Thursday, March 8

Please don’t call it a COUCH!


There are certain, very particular things that make us all cringe and send chills up our spines. For some, it might be nails on a chalkboard or screeching brakes. For myself, it is a one syllable word that makes me want to scream - in fact, it makes me squirm to simply type it out…COUCH!

This word has always driven me insane and, unfortunately, as an interior designer, I have to endure it constantly. When I think of a “couch,” I can’t help but imagine some atrocious piece of furniture full of stains and gashes left out on the sidewalk waiting for trash day. On the contrary, a “sofa” belongs in a home - comfortable, durable, and chic. I decided to investigate the origins of the “couch” and why we all don’t use the much more becoming word “sofa.”

Let us begin by the most elementary of methods – Google images. Amongst the top contenders are some offensive shades of red, a coffin, and a pig!

Yet when “sofa” is presented to the search engine, we are given some very tailored, classic and timeless pieces in attractive neutral tones. Apparently even Google gets it.

Next, digging a bit deeper into the word’s etymology, we find that its French roots imply “to lie down” and “a bed, lair” with only the head end raised. On the other hand, the sofa has both ends raised, derived from the Arabic word for bench, similar to a settee. Since nearly the beginning of time, the couch had been a place of refuge where the idle “couch potato” sought solace, while the sofa is where ladies and gentlemen of leisure enjoyed their tea and crumpets.

In Benjamin Parzybok’s novel Couch, he emphasizes, “The couch is the thrash-able object at the center of a well-used living room, upon whose back toddlers straddle, whose cushions teenager become permanent fixtures.” He then describes the sofa as a piece that “sits under a trimly hung painting.” Though I do believe the sofa should be comfortable and multi-functional - it is by no means a punching bag or a pile of quicksand.

With a little examining, I am happy to conclude that my strong aversion to the word “couch” is not baseless and that its meaning is as sloppy as its pronunciation. So please, I urge you to give up your “couch” for a “sofa” - without spending a dime - for the sake of us all.

34 comments:

Jennifer C. Webb said...

ha, love this....so how do you feel about "pocketbook" vs. "purse?" I think pocketbook is to couch what purse is to sofa

Fine and Dandy Vintage Living said...

Hallelujah! I try not to judge people when they use the "c" word!! Love your work, Grant!

Paisley Curtain said...

You are absolutely right, it is an insult to a beautiful piece of furniture. You have every right to feel offended.

There is another thing, have you heard people call a painting "picture". As an artist I feel offended when some one call my painting or any one else' painting "picture". I do not give even a print to a person who calls a painting a "picture".

People need to be educated :) if they can be :)

Karena said...

Grant I concur completely! ( with Paisley Curtain as well)

Xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

Jennifer C. Webb said...

Paisley Curtain: so funny...we drew "pictures" in kindergarten

Shannon said...

LOVE this!!

MJH Design Arts said...

I can't believe that there is some one else with the same issues with the term "couch"........I hate it!!! But it does seem to be more of a California term. THANK YOU FOR THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. MARY

Victoria said...

I could not agree more.
Best...Victoria

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU.THANK YOU ..
MY PEEVE,I HAVE MANY...IS DRAPES,A VERB...NOT A NOUN...DRAPERIES SOUNDS CORRECT TO ME..
BUT couch UGLY I AGREE


Phyllis Newman

Anonymous said...

Having been a designer for MANY years (now retired) my cringe word is drapes....omg why not window treatments or curtains, but no drapes....unless you are doing the inside of a casket, right????

Roxy

jersey girl said...

I remember reading in Sister Parish's bio about her disdain for the word COUCH! You are following in a long line of distinguished decorators by banishing this word!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

yes, we all have our 'words' which set us off! For me it's the use of 'cement' instead of 'concrete'. Cement is an INGREDIENT in CONCRETE. Not quite sure why it sets me off!

katiedid said...

So appropriate....I do seem to yell "get your feet off the couch!" at my teens....but do ask guests to "please have a seat on the sofa". Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious and fabulous all at once!!!! Your next blog topic: 'Please Don't Call Them Drapes'. :)

Allison

BRIAN PAQUETTE said...

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANKS YOUTHANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANKS YOUTHANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANKS YOUTHANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANKS YOU!

XO- BP

doug @ tracery said...

I love this! I hope you saw my frantic Facebook status where I was raging about this the other day. Could not agree with you more!

Anonymous said...

Ouch said the couch! Okay, The word shall never again pass my lips!

Anonymous said...

Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir?
The verb is "to quote", the noun is "a quotation" - makes me ITCH!!!!!!!!!!

JP

maison21 said...

couch. ouch.

Ideezine said...

I get set-off by individuals who get set-off. Our whole purpose as designers is to educate (in the nicest tone) our clients, vendors, social media followers, and
co-designers.

Turn it around as a great conversation starter and get it off your chest so it does not "set-you-off". We all need to "get real" as we learn about others and one way is to speak their language and "teach" them yours.

Share your design speak and enlighten them with history, art, photo's and the evolution of the "couch history" giving others a reason to ask for sofa.

minta said...

a couch is what you lie down on when talking to your therapist...THANK YOU grant for this article, i couldn't agree more! how about carpet vs. rug? ugh!!!

Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, Interiors said...

Well said: Grant! How about people who say, "drapes?" Please, can we tell people they are called *draperies.*

Thank you!MSSsisi

Anonymous said...

Love.

Liz

Lisa Erickson Design said...

I always hear the word "couch" in the voice of my feminist literature professor, who used the word to express any constraining subtle meaning or connotation within the text. Her use came from an embroidery term: "to stitch a cord (or yarn or decorative thread) to the surface of your fabric". Rife with feelings of feminine restriction. So couch has never been my favorite term either.

Lisa Erickson Design said...

I always hear the word "couch" in the voice of my feminist literature professor, who used the word to express any constraining subtle meaning or connotation within the text. Her use came from an embroidery term: "to stitch a cord (or yarn or decorative thread) to the surface of your fabric". Rife with feelings of feminine restriction. So couch has never been my favorite term either.

J.W. said...

Hmmm... I say 'sofa' but have never minded when my friends say 'couch.' I had supposed it was a regional thing. I thought your post was very interesting to read.

My grandmother used to call a mirror a 'looking glass' and the refrigerator an 'ice box.' I still enjoy hearing those quaint phrases.

Pigtown*Design said...

my peeve is the word "gifted". what's the problem with "gave"?

she gifted me with this couch. that's a sentence that makes my blood run cold.

Anonymous said...

You are very clever and have too much time on your hands.

Clara Walmsley said...

I'm with you , but I will add the word drapes ! Loathe it !

Anonymous said...

You are a very, very clever boy!

Kevin said...

In the movie "Six Degrees of Separation" they explain that "couch" is a trashy term and it will reveal Will Smith's character is also trashy- he must say "sofa" to pass as a Harvard man

Pam C. said...

My grandmother always called it "the davenport." Thank you for bringing back that memory!

FrutsunFrutillar said...

Look up U and non-U English. " Couch" is non-U, and "sofa" is U. Hats off to your impeccable breeding, Grant.

Anonymous said...

Okay, but I don't get the issue with "drapes" that so many people seem to have. Drapes go all the way to the floor. Curtains stop at the bottom of the window sill. "Window treatments" is not a word people use unless they make a living installing them.

 

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