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Re: Cocktail Table/Coffee Table

Posted by ESC on January 08, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Cocktail Table/Coffee Table posted by ESC on January 08, 2004

: : : : : : : This morning I heard a furniture store ad on the radio, and they were advertising "cocktail tables", among other items. It struck me as odd, because although in our house when I was growing up we always referred to the long, low table in front of the sofa as the "cocktail table", I've noticed that most people say "coffee table".

: : : : : : : I wonder which is more common? Could one or the other be regional? I can't believe there's an actual difference (that they are distinct types of tables). I grew up in metropolitan New Jersey near New York City, from the early 1960's on...

: : : : : : I always called it a cocktail table as well. I'm not sure which term is more popular, but they don't call it a "cocktail table book", do they? :)

: : : : : Folks on White Oak Mountain (W.Va.) didn't drink cocktails. It was a "coffee table." I've never heard people refer to it as a cocktail table.

: : : : New Joy-zee??
: : : : A bit west of ya in New Yawk City we called it a coffee table.

: : : :::: I've lived all over the states, and it's a coffee table in your home. Seems to me a cocktail table is that little round thing you sit at in Vegas, which holds two or four expensive drinks while you watch the stage show.

: : M-W.com says they are the same thing. Coffee table dates from 1877, while cocktail table dates from 1939. "Coffee-table" as an adjective, as in "coffee-table book" dates from 1962.

: : I'll say my gut feeling is that "cocktail table" was the trendy term back in the 1950's and into the 60's. Although my parents are anything but trendy... I'm gonna do some more research.

: I can contribute one factlet -- cocktail parties were trendy in the 1920s. ("Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982)

I googled "1950s interior design" "cocktail table" and got several hits, including:

The Webtender: The History of the Cocktail Shaker

"...By the end of the decade (1930s), shakers had become standard household objects, affordable to all. Every family had at least one shaker on the shelf. There were now cocktail shakers in the shape of bowling pins, dumbbells, town criers bells, and even in the shape of a lady's leg. The cocktail party had influenced fashion, furniture, and interior design. Coffee tables were now cocktail tables, and the little black dress, designed by Coco Chanel, went from fad to fashion, and is now an institution..."
http://www.webtender.com/handbook/shaker.html

That article mentions "The Thin Man," one of my favorite movies.