California Chesterfields

“In 1958, essayist Clifton Fadiman pointed out that Northern California is the only place besides England where the word chesterfield is used as a synonym for sofa or couch.” 

I’ve spent the last week and half in San Diego, partially for work, partially for the sunshine. I’ve been striving to determine if there are any local lexical variants that might be interesting, but have found that Californians speak a remarkably bland, unaccented and uninflected English remarkably devoid of character. I’m sure born and bred Californians would disagree.  The only remarkable thing I could find is the statement above, which resonates because my mother always taught us to say ‘chesterfield’, except in the case of a sofa-like seating unit that opened up into a kind of cot, which we called a ‘davenport’  (not, so far as I’ve observed, a Californianism). I also have to add ‘serviette’, another favourite of my mother’s, used by a server in a local restaurant.  While I’m struggling to grasp what such quaint and old fashioned politesse could mean in terms of language development, I find it perfectly delightful to think that such colloquialisms still survive.  And, of course, as I head back into the snow, the sun has been lovely –



About hickson1

Art historian, professor, Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist, Italophile
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2 Responses to California Chesterfields

  1. The word was in common use here in NL until recently.

  2. hickson1 says:

    You see – another reason why I should move to Newfoundland!!

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