couch, settee, sofa ?

vost

Senior Member
France, Français
Which of these word is the most used to talk about the one in every living room ?
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • elyse

    Member
    USA - English
    It depends where you are, but either "couch" or "sofa".

    *I think "sofa" is used more often in the UK, but they are interchangable.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Intriguing question, vost!

    I think there are regional issues here. I (south-west of England, daughter of Welsh parents) grew up saying "settee". My Scottish husband prefers "sofa". I suspect our American cousins may prefer "couch".
     

    Toadie

    Senior Member
    English
    I've never used the word sette(e) in my life. I would also say that couch and sofa are more or less. Am I the only one that sometimes thinks of a couch being a bit smaller than a sofa?
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I usually say "couch", although I also sometimes say "sofa". If I were to differentiate between them, a "couch" is long enough to lie down and take a nap on. If it is too short to lie on, it is a "sofa".
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Ah, so you need some input from Canadian foreros, then....
    Believe it or not, my Canadian family (English and Scottish roots) still call it a "chesterfield". I will admit, though, that the younger generation looks at you as if you have two heads when you use this word but I grew up with it and decades of habit are hard to break. I think most young people in Canada call it a "couch".

    Edit: From Dictionary.com:

    Chesterfield, a term for a sofa, especially a large one with upholstered arms, was probably brought down from Canada, where it is common. In the United States, it was largely limited to the trade region of San Francisco in northern California. According to Craig M. Carver in American Regional Dialects, the word probably comes from the name of a 19th-century earl of Chesterfield and originally referred "specifically to a couch with upright armrests at either end." It appears to have come into use in Canada around 1903 and in northern California at about the same time.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Where I come from, both a couch and a sofa are long enough to lie down on and take a nap.

    If it's shorter, we call it a loveseat.

    That's how they're sold when you buy a living/family room ensemble: a couch/sofa and a matching loveseat.

    picture


    AngelEyes
     
    Last edited:

    magic88

    Member
    English - Canadian
    By Dimcl:

    Believe it or not, my Canadian family (English and Scottish roots) still call it a "chesterfield". I will admit, though, that the younger generation looks at you as if you have two heads when you use this word but I grew up with it and decades of habit are hard to break. I think most young people in Canada call it a "couch".
    I think I have heard it called a 'chesterfield' less than five times in my lifetime.

    By AngelEyes

    Where I come from, both a couch and a sofa are long enough to lie down on and take a nap.

    If it's shorter, we call it a loveseat.
    Canadians call couches/sofas that have two cushions/seats loveseats as well, but we would normally call them couches. (An ordinary couch would have about three cushions.)
     

    una madre

    Senior Member
    Western Canada English
    Hi Brioche,
    Haven't heard the word chesterfield in thirty years! I have always thought of it as an American word although, come to think of it, my parents used to use it (they're from Ireland). It is definitely not in use in Canada these days! Have just checked with the group of teenagers hanging around here and their response was: "do you mean a couch?"
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Hi Brioche,
    Haven't heard the word chesterfield in thirty years! I have always thought of it as an American word although, come to think of it, my parents used to use it (they're from Ireland). It is definitely not in use in Canada these days! Have just checked with the group of teenagers hanging around here and their response was: "do you mean a couch?"
    See my post (#12). (I'm not sure that Brioche read it either). :)

    Edit: And, yes, it is still in use (although not by the younger crowd).
     

    Aileycace

    New Member
    English - Ireland
    These days it refers to any couch, though originally it referred only to the luxuriously cushioned seats of esteemed guests in the royal palaces of Arabia. Sofas are always upholstered and designed for reclining and relaxation.
     
    I've never used the word sette(e) in my life. I would also say that couch and sofa are more or less. Am I the only one that sometimes thinks of a couch being a bit smaller than a sofa?
    You are not the only person who was taught to use "couch" as a small sofa. I am not a native speaker, but I read in books and heard it from tourists I am working with that couches are small sofas, which were very popular for decorating palace interiors:

    http://www.google.ru/imglanding?q=c...s=isch:1&start=0#tbnid=OcfoyKQ3a8Uf_M&start=1

    http://www.google.ru/imglanding?q=c...s=isch:1&start=0#tbnid=tIGVFGD_1n2WFM&start=4

    I have found these pictures having googled the word "couch", but as can be seen from the images they look almost the same as sofas, not much smaller or shorter. Thus, it probably has more to do with the style in which these items of furniture were made.

    The following pictures show the examples of settees:

    http://www.google.ru/imglanding?q=s...s=isch:1&start=0#tbnid=jKSJmLGPIDOVgM&start=2

    http://www.google.ru/imglanding?q=s...s=isch:1&start=0#tbnid=D9ZwTs-efxjOHM&start=4

    http://www.google.ru/imglanding?q=s...s=isch:1&start=3#tbnid=DIC2nzy1obcmHM&start=7

    They are different from couches because they are definitely smaller, look more fragile and more decorative (at least those I have found). I was also told by one English teacher that it is better to avoid the word "settee" when speaking with people from the UK. I do not know why. Probably because this word is not widely used there and is unfamiliar to most BE speakers.

    Best
     

    Kumpel

    Senior Member
    British English
    My sister, mum and I all say settee.
    Maybe that's just Northwest Brits for you.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    My sister, mum and I all say settee.
    Maybe that's just Northwest Brits for you.
    Not just Northwest Brits, Lloyd:) - see Settee, local?
    They are different from couches because they are definitely smaller, look more fragile and more decorative (at least those I have found). I was also told by one English teacher that it is better to avoid the word "settee" when speaking with people from the UK. I do not know why. Probably because this word is not widely used there and is unfamiliar to most BE speakers.
    Not so, Dmitry. Those of us who use the term "settee" (and there are many in the UK, despite what your teacher said:D) use it to mean just what other people mean by "sofa" or "couch". There's a picture of my settee (OK, I lie, it's not mine - it's one just like it) in the previous thread I've just linked to.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    As some one who grew up in the California of the 1970s-80s: Couch and sofa are interchangeable. I probably would say "sofa" more.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    No, hah, I didn't mean just as in only. It was kinda, "Well, that's just what we're like..."

    Sorry for the confusion; I'll edit my post.
    Oh, no, you can't go back and edit a post when someone's already replied:mad: ... Oh, I see you have....
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    This is a subject treated by Kate Fox in ""Watching the English*" (on page 78 of my NB paperback edition) in the Chapter on Linguistic Class Codes, as one of the "Seven Deadly Sins"
    (Google search terms : "kate fox" "watching the english" couch settee will take you to the page if you don't have the book.)

    Settee
    Or you could ask your hosts what they call their furniture. If an upholstered seat for two or more people is called a settee or a couch, they are no higher than middle-middle. If it is a sofa, they are upper-middle or above....
    *A fascinating book for all students of the English language for its insights into the class/culture/character etc and influences on language. Alas, she was not able to repeat her research in each geographical region of the country to support (or reject) her observations on word usage and class as true from region to region.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is a subject treated by Kate Fox in ""Watching the English*" (on page 78 of my NB paperback edition) in the Chapter on Linguistic Class Codes, as one of the "Seven Deadly Sins"
    (Google search terms : "kate fox" "watching the english" couch settee will take you to the page if you don't have the book.)

    *A fascinating book for all students of the English language for its insights into the class/culture/character etc and influences on language. Alas, she was not able to repeat her research in each geographical region of the country to support (or reject) her observations on word usage and class as true from region to region.
    That's me stuck in the middle, then.
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I read on Wikipedia that in the UK it's more common to use the words "sofa" and "settee" rather than "couch." Wikipedia doesn't distinguish between the two though, and the images on google show similar stuff for both sofa and settee. And yet in a book I was reading I found this:

    ". . . and even in my despair, I felt I was watching myself from elsewhere: from a sofa -- a settee even -- in a leisure suit, with a can of Coke and a bag of crisps, observing myself with a slightly bored detached air . . ."
    (Catherine Alliott, The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton)

    Is settee perhaps preferred when talking about the antique variety of couch, the one with spindly legs and rather stiff back?

    Thanks!
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I do not think "sofa" and "settee" are different objects, but differents names for the same object. In my mind the two words have a different social use. My mother would say "settee" to sound posh in front of guests, but normally it would just be the "sofa".
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Is settee perhaps preferred when talking about the antique variety of couch, the one with spindly legs and rather stiff back?
    I do not think "sofa" and "settee" are different objects, but differents names for the same object. In my mind the two words have a different social use. My mother would say "settee" to sound posh in front of guests, but normally it would just be the "sofa".
    I agree with Aardie that "sofa" and "settee" are different names for the same piece of furniture; but I wouldn't agree that "settee" is generally seen as the "posher" term. I see that susanna's author is English, and the book is set in England. I'm sure there are regional variations here*, but my own view is closer to that of the extract Julian quoted in post 26 - that "sofa" is, at least historically, the "posher" word (note that I'm a "settee"-sayer;)). That would also fit with the rest of susanna's quote - the speaker is envisaging herself pigging out on downmarket coke & crisps, wearing a downmarket leisure suit....

    *See Settee, local?
     
    Last edited:

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    For me "sofa" and "couch" are the same and I would say both with no preference. "Loveseat" is for two people, but it is more of a word for specialists. "Settee" is a new word for me. Do you all accent it on the first or the second syllable? Can it be turned into a bed?
    Cheers!
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I agree with Aaardie that "sofa" and "settee" are different names for the same piece of furniture; but I wouldn't agree that "settee" is generally seen as the "posher" term. I see that susanna's author is English, and the book is set in England. I'm sure there are regional variations here*, but my own view is closer to that of the extract Julian quoted in post 26 - that "sofa" is, at least historically, the "posher" word (note that I'm a "settee"-sayer;)). That would also fit with the rest of susanna's quote - the speaker is envisaging herself pigging out on dowmarket coke & crisps, wearing a downmarket leisure suit....

    *See Settee, local?
    I agree. My experience was generally in line with Kate Fox's synthesis (my mother was very particluar and had "aspirations" and told me never to use settee:eek:!) but I expect there to be regional variations added on top of her (probably a bit-too-simplified) class-based explanation/thesis.
     

    Kumpel

    Senior Member
    British English
    Something interesting I read on etymonline.com:

    Traditionally, a couch has the head end only raised, and only half a back; a sofa has both ends raised and a full back; a settee is like a sofa but may be without arms; an ottoman has neither back nor arms, nor has a divan, the distinctive feature of which is that it goes against a wall.
    Though, I personally think of couch, sofa and settee as interchangeable.
    *According to this, the answer to the original question depends on what you actually have in your living room (by this definition, usu. a sofa/settee).

    Lloyd
     
    Last edited:

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thanks! It makes a lot of sense then in the novel, as you point out.

    . . . "sofa" is, at least historically, the "posher" word (note that I'm a "settee"-sayer;)). That would also fit with the rest of susanna's quote - the speaker is envisaging herself pigging out on downmarket coke & crisps, wearing a downmarket leisure suit....
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top