It's a Sofa, Not a Couch

Let's settle this once and for all.

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Victoria Pearson

In the course of history, mankind has been faced with a handful of debates so contentious as to risk tearing apart the fabric of society. Do aliens really exist? What color was ? Is the thing you sit on in your living room called a sofa or a couch?

Luckily, that last question does, in fact, have a definitive answer. Which is: a sofa. Not a couch. Period.

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A sofa, not a couch, in a project by Andrew Howard.
David Tsay

Why? Well, according to Merriam-Webster, a "sofa" is defined as "a long upholstered seat usually with arms and a back, and often convertible into a bed." (Not sure why they're so big on sofa-beds, but OK.) "Couch," on the other hand, is simultaneously "an article of furniture for sitting or reclining," "a couch on which a patient reclines when undergoing psychoanalysis" (can you use a word in its own definition?), and "the den of an animal (such as an otter)."

So one of these words refers specifically to an upholstered seat, while the other might likewise be an article of furniture—or where you spend an hour at the shrink, or perhaps the home of an otter. You decide what's more appealing.

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An O. Henry House sofa—also not a couch—anchors this living room designed by Barrie Benson.
Ngoc Minh Ngo

Then there's the fact that the word "couch" just sounds weird. It's like saying "slacks" instead of pants or "purse" instead of handbag. Sure, people will know what you're talking about, but they'll probably think you're a little off.

You don't have to take my word for it, though: In a recent and not-entirely-scientific poll, a full 100 percent of experts—in this case, interior designers—agreed that "sofa" is the preferred nomenclature.

For many of them, the mere mention of a "couch" was met with horror. "It sounds like something covered in plastic at your grandma's house," said of Right Meets Left Interior Design. "Couch rhymes with slouch!" proclaimed .

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Not just one but two sofas, courtesy of Thomas Jayne.
Francesco Lagnese

Per Charleston's , "'Couch' sounds less expensive, whereas 'sofa' is elegant and reserved." Laura Gregory, president of North Carolina–based upholstery company , felt similarly. "Couch is always more low-end," she explained. "It’s kind of a joke at our house—even my kids will correct people when they say couch!"

suggested that steps be taken to ensure the proper use of "sofa," stating, "You should not be a designer if you say 'couch,' and I feel strongly about it."

And for , the debate isn't even a debate at all: "There's nothing to have an opinion about—it's a sofa. Stop. The end."

So there you have it. It's a sofa, not a couch.

(Unless it's a loveseat. Or a settee. Or a banquette. But we'll leave that for another day.)

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