What do you call this piece of furniture?
It’s features are “a large, overstuffed [furniture for seating] with a back and upholstered arms” (Dictionary.com). It’s not necessarily leather or pleather. In fact, the upholstery choice isn’t that important. What is important is that it has the back and arms and that it’s big. Most likely, it’s comfortable. It’s often in your more formal living room, as opposed to your family room–are those Canadian terms as well, I wonder?
When I was little, “chesterfield” (#3) was used by my family to describe a couch or sofa, but always the one that was sat on less or used for company in our living room. We didn’t sit on it very often as the “couch” was for everyday use in the family room. When two separate rooms weren’t present, the couch would also be referred to as the “chesterfield”, particularly by my grandparents. What I’ve come to find out is that it was named after the Earl of Chesterfield in the 19th century,based on this type of couch with “a low rolled back and deep buttoning”, though we used it more generally than that. But now? I’d refer to it and everything like it a “couch” or a “sofa”.
Is it a dead term? Well not quite. With a quick Google search, I found a Toronto-based shop called “The Chesterfield Shop“, which seems to sell much more than the traditional chesterfield, but all like-seating, and a couple of other non-furniture related companies using the term in their business name.
Being a language teacher, I often question the usefulness of teaching certain language when it seems rarely used in daily life, if not nearly lost with a bygone era. There are a lot of glaringly obvious examples to desert completely (has anyone actually said “it’s raining cats and dogs” in your lifetime), but in doing so, do we limit our ability to express ourselves clearly? Are these words and expressions just being replaced by newer ones with the same meaning? Or has our society/culture/environment just evolved to the point where describing it a certain way is no longer relevant?
Thinking about my grandmother the other day and what she used to say to me, I had the idea to blog about some of these types of linguistic challenges. So tell me, whomever you are, do you think these are still used? If so, when was the last time you heard it used or used it yourself?
#1 – saucy (adj)
I can remember when I was a little kid, I’d get frustrated and say something sarcastic. And if in Gramma’s presence, she’d say, “now don’t get saucy“. I also remember thinking it was such an odd expression to say in that situation when my mom never used it nor did anyone else I knew, even then. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever used it then or since. Variation of similar frequency: lippy
#2 – horse around (v)
I’m not sure why these two came to mind most recently (maybe I’m feeling like I’ve done something wrong, haha), but another one my grandparents said was not to horse around in the living room as though my friends and I would destroy something valuable. Now this one’s a little tough for me to make a call on. I do believe I’ve taught it to students at one point or another without really considering too carefully if I’ve ever used it myself. And you know, I don’t think I have. But for some reason, it doesn’t seem quite as outdated as saucy.
What an linguistically awkward decade this has been, moreso than probably any other since the 11th century. Overstatement? Maybe. But with regards to years, the last ten have shifted us away from our normal numeric namingsystem for the first time in our lives anyway. What is normal you say?
Before 2000, when was the last time years were called by their full numeric phrasing (eg. 2001=two thousand one; 2008=two thousand eight) as they were during the last decade? Sure, none of us were even a sparkle in our great, great grandparents’ eyes, but I’d venture to guess it was 1009? We can at least agree based on movies, television and school books, that from 1100 until 1999, the year names were separated into two halves (eg. 1173=eleven seventy-three; 1984=nineteen eighty-four). Remarkably, it was at least a thousand years minus 10 of people saying ##-## and we still dislodged it with “two thousand”? Granted, “twenty-oh-oh” or “twenty-hundred” doesn’t quite have the smooth ring to it.
Thankfully, ten years into the century, we’re finally able to go back to what’s normal. Say it with me: 20-10, 20-10, 20-10! That’s right! I was happy to see that I wasn’t the only one irritated by the dichotomy presented in the last decade. Still, there are a few resisters and likely will be for the next couple years. But think about these and say them to yourself:
The 20-10 Olympics are in Vancouver!
Who'll win the 20-10 World Cup?
There's some sort of Expo in Shanghai in 20-10.
Hopefully you’ll agree with me and end the decade of abnormality.