HD: Chesterfields, Timbits, and Crappy Tire
Posted: 05 May 2013 03:51 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Sometimes too much Canadian slang can be too much.

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Posted: 05 May 2013 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I hadn’t considered chesterfield a slang term, vaguely supposing that it went back to some 18th/19th century Earl of Chesterfield. That however seems most unlikely as OED has no entry for it at all. This site posits a North American origin (among others) but why Canadians should suddenly start terming sofas chesterfields remains a puzzle.

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Posted: 05 May 2013 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In the UK, a Chesterfield sofa is a particular kind of deep buttoned leather sofa, like this:
design-field-notes_coco-republic_chesterfield-sofa_12.jpg

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Posted: 05 May 2013 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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According to this site:

http://www.clothierjones.com/latest/chesterfield-sofa-history/

aldi’s not far off the mark.

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Posted: 05 May 2013 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Chesterfield isn’t slang, but it is a regionalism very much associated with Canada. It’s not unique to Canada—DARE records it in the US, mostly in California—but odds are that if you hear a North American use the word, they’re Canadian. As to why this particular word for “sofa” caught on in Canada, I doubt there is a reason. It just happened to be the one that did.

Take any etymology offered by a commercial site with a grain of salt. It’s not that they deliberately set out to deceive, like tour guides it’s just that they’re not terribly interested in research. They usually print or post whatever explanation sounds good to them and that puts their product in a good light.

And the OED does have an entry for it, Chesterfield, n. def. 2, although it hasn’t been updated recently:

2. A stuffed-over couch or sofa with a back and two ends, one of which is sometimes made adjustable.
1900 Westm. Gaz. 30 Jan. 10/2 The club room, charmingly furnished with chairs and Chesterfields upholstered with blue cretonnes.
1919 C. Orr Glorious Thing vi. 67 ‘Is that the book?’ asked Nannie, drawing in the Chesterfield, and motioning to him to sit down beside her.
1927 Chambers’s Jrnl. 641/1 Both were seated, Jimmy in the chair facing him, and Betty on the chesterfield.
1954 Jrnl. Canadian Linguistic Assoc. 1 i. 16 Chesterfield seems to be in general use throughout Canada, though the usual American sofa is also known and used. Almost everywhere in the United States chesterfields are cigarettes and nothing more.

[ Edited: 05 May 2013 08:48 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 05 May 2013 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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So it does! I know what happened, there was clearly a typo in my search entry which is why OED gave the null result. Thanks, Dave.

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Posted: 05 May 2013 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The use of Chesterfield for sofa is a memory from my childhood in So Cal, so that somewhat validates the California connection although why that should be so I would be interested to know. The rich people had Chesterfields is how it worked in my childish understanding.

I can’t imagine anyone reading this sort of piece and thinking it was anything other than weak entertainment.

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Posted: 06 May 2013 12:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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"Chesterfield” would be understood by some Britons, I suspect, but the usual words are “sofa” or “settee”. “Kerfuffle” would certainly be understood by Britons. “Thongs”, if it’s the footwear, rather than the swimwear, is surely originally Australian. ‘Corner shop” is widely used in BrE. “Slough”, to any Briton, is the place John Betjeman asked friendly bombs to fall on, although it was (probably) named for being a particularly muddy spot on the road west out of London to Bath and Bristol, so there’s a link to the CanE use of the word.

Smarties are universally known in Britain, although we do now have M&Ms as well. “Ketchup chips” would be understood, although only as the sum of two very familiar parts: we don’t, I think, have the phrase. “Serviette” would be well-known in Britain too, although “napkin” is about 10 times commoner, according to the BNC (mind, if “serviette” means specifically “paper napkin”, then “serviette” is the more common term.) “Glovebox” would again be the standard (indeed only) BrE term. “Queue”, of course, is a standard BrE term.

“Hoodie”, also spelled “hoody”, too, is a common BrE word for a hooded sweatshirt - and surely it is in AmE too? Although “hoody” now has the additional meaning in BrE of “(suspicious-looking and potentially threatening) youth wearing hooded top”, which led David Cameron, now our PM, to instigate a ”Hug a Hoodie” campaign before the last general election.

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Posted: 06 May 2013 03:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Smarties are a very different thing in the US, wafers of flavored sugar.

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Posted: 06 May 2013 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Zythophile - 06 May 2013 12:14 AM

“Ketchup chips” would be understood, although only as the sum of two very familiar parts: we don’t, I think, have the phrase.

Pennsylvania-based chip manufacturer Herr’s has been producing an American (that is, middle-North American) version of ketchup chips for several years now, cross-branded with Heinz. 

If they held a vote for Most Canadian Chip Flavor I would go to “all dressed” which I’ve never seen anywhere else.

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Posted: 06 May 2013 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Zythophile - 06 May 2013 12:14 AM



“Hoodie", also spelled “hoody”, too, is a common BrE word for a hooded sweatshirt - and surely it is in AmE too? Although “hoody” now has the additional meaning in BrE of “(suspicious-looking and potentially threatening) youth wearing hooded top”,…

In my personal AmE, “hoodie” is a common term for the hood-bearing clothing item. I’ve never heard it in the sense of “(suspicious-looking and potentially threatening) youth wearing hooded top”.

Edit: “hood” as in “he’s a hood”, meaning ‘he’s a hoodlum’ was common in my youth. Etymonline offers:


hood (n.2)

“gangster,” 1930, American English, shortened form of hoodlum.

[ Edited: 06 May 2013 07:22 AM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 06 May 2013 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Regarding British usage, “Chesterfield” crops up in in the Monty Python skit “Elephantoplasty”, about an unorthodox transplant surgeon:

Interviewer: Is lack of donors a problem?

Surgeon: There just aren’t enough accidents. It’s unethical and time-consuming to go out and *cause* them, so we’re having to rely on whatever comes to hand-- chairs, tables, floor-cleaning equipment, drying-out racks, pieces of pottery, and these do pose almost insurmountable surgical problems. What I’m sitting on, in fact, is one of our more successful attempts. This is Mrs. Dudley. She had little hope of survival, she’d lost interest in life, but along came this very attractive mahogany frame, and now she’s a jolly comfortable Chesterfield.

And in US usage, there is a Family Guy episode in which Brian has been dating an older woman (older even than he initially thought) and is now breaking up with her:

Rita: Go! You can leave my apartment key on the davenport.
[Brian walks away and holds the key out in front of her dressing table]
Brian Griffin: Here?
Rita: No, the davenport- the chesterfield.
[Brian walks towards the ottoman and holds the key in front of it]
Brian Griffin: On this?
Rita: No- does that look like a divan to you?
[Brian slowly walks to the windowsill and places the keys on it, still holding on to it]
Brian Griffin: Here?
Rita: [Exasperated sigh] Leave ‘em on the chifferobe.
Brian Griffin: You know what- [He chucks the keys on the bed] just take your fucking keys, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. [Exits the room and slams the door shut]

The implication is that these are obsolete, old-fashioned terms for a sofa, although the humor relies on the audience at least recognizing them as such.

[ Edited: 06 May 2013 07:47 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 06 May 2013 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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There’s a Chesterfield in Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams.

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