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.