Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sofa v. Couch

I recently entered the lively and acrimonious comment section at Decorno to participate in a discussion on pretentious language. You know, like telling your friends your kids are with the nanny when it's the 14 year old niece of your daughter's piano teacher. My personal pet peeve is the inappropriate use of regional language. I have one friend who for years now talks of "going on holiday" or buying various items for her new "flat." She's not British. In fact, she grew up in a small, southern California desert town with one main street, her dad is 3rd generation Mexican-American and that "flat" is a condo in Chino Hills. Like I said, annoying.

So I'm reading through all the blog comments and notice one person who laments the use of the word "couch" when it should be "sofa." Um, what? I had no idea there was a difference. I figured west coast people say couch, easterners say sofa and southerners probably say something like davenport. Until that moment, I had chalked up the disparity as the furniture equivalent of the age old soda v. pop war. I had to learn more, so I requested that someone clarify the distinction for me, an admitted design dunce. Brave? Not really. Even though the crowd in the comment section likes to flex their snark, I knew I wasn't going to get beat up too badly because, for the most part, I have always been treated very nicely. I think my willingness to admit I know nothing of design helps. I also think, rapier wits aside, it's just an intelligent group of people having a little fun saying aloud what everyone usually just thinks. Here is the very kind reply I received from someone named Reggie:

OK, here we go with the requested distinctions: Sofa = preferred term to describe the multi-seated upholstered seating piece typically found in most people's living rooms. Couch = technical description of "grecian" style seating piece, usually with one arm (think recamier) only; considered to be a "common" term and not to be used when referring to a sofa by finnicky sticklers for verbal accuracy.

So there you go. That couch you're sitting on is actually a sofa. You may have known that, but I didn't. No one else admitted to calling a couch a sofa, and Ms. Decorno herself called Reggie her "Teacher's Pet" for being such a pleasant decor erudite. I suppose I learned something new that day, and in an unlikely place to boot. Since then, I take great care to refer to the couch as a sofa, lest I be considered common. A week later, as I sat down to write my latest Craigslist ad, I carefully crafted copy describing my Stunning! Like New! Pottery Barn Inspired! SOFA! I priced it at a very reasonable $600 and waited for the emails to come pouring in.

I didn't receive a single email. Not one in an entire week. Now, if you know anything about the crackpots trolling Craigslist, it's they are gluttonous in their need for additional pictures. So for me not to get a single request for more pictures was highly unusual. I had to conclude that I overpriced my
Stunning! Like New! Pottery Barn Inspired! SOFA! I dropped the price to $360, all the while cursing the imminent cheap bastard who was going to walk away with a very good sofa.

Nothing happened. Again, not one single email in a week. I checked my listing from various computers to make sure it posted accurately. I spell-checked it three times and made sure I had uploaded the right picture. I searched Craigslist myself and found my sofa every time. I couldn't figure out why no one was interested in my
Stunning! Like New! Pottery Barn Inspired! SOFA!

Just before midnight, in the middle of the third week, it hit me.

I ran outside to my computer. Pulled up the listing. Clicked on "Edit" and reworded my title.

Stunning! Like New! Pottery Barn Inspired! COUCH!

And the next morning I sold that multi-seated upholstered seating piece typically found in most people's living rooms that is not to be confused with a Recamier "grecian" style seating piece, usually with one arm thank you very much.