Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Davenport-- a tale of two settees. (Or one settee and a desk.)

Looks pretty much like any other college coffee shop, right?
When you do this sort of blog, certain repetitions stand out a bit more than they might in normal life. All the same, by the end of my Christmas weekend, I had heard the word "davenport" more than seemed statistically likely. (Statisticians, scoff as you will ). My nephew had been mentioning the Davenport Coffee Shop at American University, where he's going to school right now in Washington DC.

So I mentioned the little town just up the coast from me, where the Davenport cash store is a popular place to drive up for breakfast.

Then our friend was trying to connect us up to 'her guy' in relation to my mom's estate. I finally said, I  keep hearing about this "guy", but what's his name? His name, of course, was Davenport. Then on the next night, I saw something on Rachel Maddow about the Davenport Skybridge, which crosses the highway in (where else?) Davenport, Iowa, for better viewing of the Mississippi River.

Mr. Davenport, aka "the guy"

But all of this left unanswered a simpler question that slowly began to emerge. What exactly is a davenport? I mean, it's a couch, of course. I can even picture one in my mind. It would belong in a suburban den, and be plaid, with a cloth ruff. So does the word come from a name, a place or just what exactly?

Iowa--who knew?

Time to find out.

I'm not sure we have the answers we need here--maybe we're left with more of a puzzle. A davenport is a sofa, but it's the kind of sofa that means different things to different people. To some people it means a very formal sort of couch, while for others, it means couch that hides a bed within. Although it is not entirely possible to trace this to a source, it does seem very likely that it started as a kind of sofa, made by a company with the family name of Davenport.

But wait! Are we talking about the sofa, or are we in fact talking about an entirely different piece of furniture? Because the facts are indisputable--before there was a davenport sofa, there was a davenport writing desk. Two different pieces of furniture called davenport? What the heck?

Davenport user on the right...
Hmm. Apparently, there were not just one but two different families who decided to trademark their furniture under their own name at different points in time.

Oh, really?

Here's what I think.

"Davenport" actually refers to a secret portal for space aliens. So any time you hear the word "davenport", you need to be cautious and on your guard. Anyone called Davenport is probably "of another realm"--one that has a curious affinity for fine furniture, which despite their incredible need for secrecy, they are unable to resist identifying with themselves. Any place that names itself Davenport is advertising it's special portal powers.

Unconvinced? Take a look at this short video of the Davenport Skybridge and tell me it's not blatantly advertising itself to the cosmos as point of entry:

Am I crazy? Yeah...crazy like a Davenport.


  1. I spent my childhood in Canada relaxing on Chesterfields only to discover when I came to the U.S. that I'd been lying on couches the whole time.

  2. Ex-ACT-ly, Peter.

    I'm not sure how many towns, villages and ports are named Davenport, but whatever. They are all HIGHLY suspect.

  3. Davenports now terrify me. Did you ever see the Dr. Who episode wherein we learn that there are things called The Silence that we all see for a brief moment, like when we turn a corner before someone else does and they are there waiting for you, their ghastly non-faces waiting to have you do their bidding. The moment you look away you have broken the spell, and they dissappear, but not before they've taken over your mind for a brief second to plant seeds of self-destruction and destruction of humanity in its entirety.


    Not sure how to embed a pic here, maybe this worked?

    Perhaps, just perhaps, every time we hear or say Davenport, the Silence enters our body once again?


  4. Oh my god. Thank heavens none of us have married into this 'family'. (Although we are still willing to take your financial advice, thanks very much.) I am posting the link as a public service.

  5. Just the word itself, brings to mind, slack-jawed, old money images. When I first read the word settee in a novel, I didn't know what it meant at first, had an idea, and was glad to find out it was bascially a couch. That was one cool video. Would love to see / walk across it someday.

  6. Haha, I love your conclusion! But now I am at odds...I love that little bakery in Davenport (near us), the food is so delicious...or some might even say 'out of this world'. So do I dare to return? Is their veggie burger and selection of local beers worth risking abduction?!

  7. You are hilarious. Hey, I know a space alien named Davenport!

  8. yeah well i used to SMOKE davenports haha...they were really cheap, but thats another story...
    now i think of it though...i thought davenports were some kinda briefcase...maybe im thinking of something else...
    a couch eh?

  9. Oh, and compliments on "Tale of Two Setees."

  10. Seana

    And now someone will have to explain where the "Murphy Bed" came from.

  11. Sean, I have to admit that I have never heard anyone use the word settee in any natural setting known to humankind. I believe it exclusively appears in old novels.

    I hope you get to the Davenport Skybridge some day. I am not sure what else there is to see in Iowa, now that the caucuses are over.

  12. Brittany, I think you might as well go on with consorting with them. The sad fact is that you and your beloved have already been transmogrified. It pains me to be the one who has to tell you.

  13. Kathleen, I think we ALL know an alien called Davenport. Perhaps they are all really a single entity. Results are not in, and perhaps the human mind cannot comprehend their fiendish cleverness.

  14. Dan--cigarettes too, huh? I knew there must be a plan for world domination, but now it seems they mean human annihilation first.

    I know nothing about a briefcase of that name. Perhaps it is better left that way...

  15. Peter, thanks on the title. There are some incorrigible punning influences in these parts and I seem to have fallen victim to their influence.

  16. Adrian, I read recently that Murphy is the number one last name in Ireland, so that someone would have to be you.

    Unless you are claiming a Norn Iron exclusion clause.

    Actually, for a long time, one of my friends could not get it out of her head that my name was Seana Murphy, so I may have to take up this challenge if better minds fail.

  17. A search for "davenport" and "briefcase" turns up lots of news stories with the headline "Briefcase causes two-hour bomb scare in Davenport." They're wary of briefcases their. They probably look askance at leather folders, too.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  18. Peter and Dan,

    I did a quick synonym search and I'm thinking portfolio may be the word causing confusion.

  19. Hmm, how does "portfolio" cause confusion?

    In re Murphy, Lenny Murphy was head of the notorious Shankhill Butchers. I have read that his hatred of Catholics may have been due in part to his sometimes being mistaken for one because of his name. I wonder how the Murphys of Ireland break on religious lines.

    Colin Bateman wrote a book called Mohammed McGuire, but I know of no Mohammed Murphys.

  20. Seana- Actually, I first read "settee" in Allan Guthrie's "Hard Man", and have seen it more than a few times in other crime novel from UK authors.

  21. Peter, I think it's the port. Though portmanteau might also be the culprit.

  22. Sean, yes, I think it would be more likely to be used in British or Irish fiction, or in American novels from an earlier period that was more influenced by British English.

    In California, the only thing we ever use is couch and sofa. At least in my circles. Other circles in Santa Cruz prefer to sit on the floor in meditative yoga poses.

  23. If you branch out into erotica, may I suggest the title "Sex and the Settee"?
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  24. well, you've done the legwork for me with this post, since I'm working on davenport for a story that includes both the couch and the place (in iowa).

  25. That's a fantastic coincidence, Sheiler. In both senses of the word.

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