coffee table, side table

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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coffee table, side table

Post by tony h » Mon May 23, 2016 4:58 pm

Why do we have coffee-tables, side-tables but no tea-tables?
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With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: coffee table, side table

Post by Bobinwales » Mon May 23, 2016 9:03 pm

My grandmother always referred to the dining-room table as the tea table. She didn't have a dining-room of course. Kitchen, Living-room and parlour. We were allowed into the parlour at Christmas.
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Re: coffee table, side table

Post by BonnieL » Tue May 24, 2016 4:02 pm

We had a 3-shelf cart on wheels that we always called a tea cart - tho we never drank tea. It was like the pink one in this picture: http://foter.com/explore/tea-carts-serving-carts. But green, I think.

Slightly off topic - is an English parlour the same as a lounge? I've seen the latter in books. I've long wondered if it's the same as an American living room, or more like a den.
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Re: coffee table, side table

Post by Bobinwales » Tue May 24, 2016 6:33 pm

I can't speak for England, but when I was a boy in Wales, a long, long, long time ago, the parlour was a posh sitting room, usually at the front of the house that was rarely used.
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Re: coffee table, side table

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue May 24, 2016 7:12 pm

BonnieL wrote:We had a 3-shelf cart on wheels that we always called a tea cart - tho we never drank tea. It was like the pink one in this picture: http://foter.com/explore/tea-carts-serving-carts. But green, I think.

Slightly off topic - is an English parlour the same as a lounge? I've seen the latter in books. I've long wondered if it's the same as an American living room, or more like a den.
A den is like a sort of hide-out, such as an old-fashioned study (i.e. no computers, but with a library) or a room in which one relaxes with a hobby (usually a solitary one... no, not that one).

As Bob says, a parlour was a room for receiving visitors, or for a formal occasion like celebrating the birthday of a grandparent, or perhaps for viewing the body of a recently deceased member of the family (in the days when early deaths were commonplace).

To me, lounge, living room and sitting room are all different terms for the same thing.
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Re: coffee table, side table

Post by trolley » Tue May 24, 2016 7:14 pm

I Googled "tea-tables" because I found it hard to believe that there wasn't such an animal. Apparently they were quite common (a couple of hundred years ago). Most of them seem to be round, tilt-top tables on a pedestal that stands on three feet. I have a hazy recollection of one of these in an Aunt's house that she may have referred to as a cake table or dessert table.
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Re: coffee table, side table

Post by trolley » Tue May 24, 2016 7:27 pm

When I was growing up, we never had a living room. Actually, I guess we did, but we never called it that. We called it the front room. Now that I think of it, I haven't heard that term in years.
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Re: coffee table, side table

Post by Phil White » Tue May 24, 2016 9:32 pm

trolley wrote:When I was growing up, we never had a living room. Actually, I guess we did, but we never called it that. We called it the front room. Now that I think of it, I haven't heard that term in years.
How strange! As a family, we moved around a lot, and the first two houses we lived in had a "front room". Strictly for Sundays and formal occasions. Nasty, cold, unwelcoming places. The next house we lived in had a long lounge/diner which stretched from the front to the back of the house. For a while, this was also the "front room". Then we moved to another house which had a hallway and a kitchen in the front of the house and a lounge and dining room at the back. The lounge was the "front room" and the dining room was the "back room", even though they were both at the back.
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Re: coffee table, side table

Post by Phil White » Tue May 24, 2016 9:49 pm

In answer to Tony's original question, I suspect it is due to the fact that tables are patently there for serving tea on. In the same way that floors are patently there for being walked on, and we therefore do not call them "walking floors", it is entirely redundant to call something a "tea table". There is only any need to qualify it if it is abused for some other wholly un-British purpose such as serving coffee or standing a TV on.

When we have a nest of tables, we do not need to call them "tea tables". They are discreetly small, neat and tidy and are there for tea, and perhaps a biscuit or two on a fine porcelain plate. Entirely unlike the gross, foreign-looking, obscenely rectangular or, god forbid, curved, coffee tables.

I put it all down to the advent of these ghastly low couches that Johnny Foreigner has introduced onto our market and which are so bad for one's posture.
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Re: coffee table, side table

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat May 28, 2016 4:44 pm

Bob your case would be the same as mine except mine came form a Scottish background. The tea table wasn't for the drinking type tea but for the meal called tea, ie dinner to other people. We had breakfast, lunch, tea. So the tea table was the dinner table to others.

WoZ call it what you like just not late.
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