Monday, June 24, 2013

Who Gets the Chair?

During the late 1700's, few American colonists lived on big plantations.  Most eked out extremely meager existences in one-room wooden houses.  Because their houses were so small, family dining generally took place on a table pushed close against one wall.  The young children sat on a long wide board which folded down from the wall while the bigger children and wife sat on a rough sanded bench on the other side. 

Most households only had one chair which was generally very ornate in design.  During the day the wife would use this chair to tend to the children, crochet, knit or mend clothing. However, the chair was always reserved for the man of the house when it was time to eat.

Should a special guest be over when  a meal was served, that special guest was normally offered the chair to sit in while they ate their meal while the rest of the family, including the man of the house, would sit on the board attached to the wall or on the wooden bench.  Consequently, for someone to be asked to sit in the chair meant they were important - either an honored guest or perhaps someone in charge of something. 

The person to sit in the chair was commonly referred to as the 'Chair man' or 'Chair person'.  Today, this same expression or title is used in all levels of government - Federal, State and Local.  We use the word 'Chairman' or 'Chairperson' to signify who is in charge of our board and committee meetings in government.