Vera told Mike that she wanted a new pouffe because her existing one had a gaping hole in it and all the little white pellets were escaping! Such was a conversation I heard the other day whilst in Morrisons Knottingley, one of the finest shopping emporiums in the whole of the North of England. But was Vera strictly correct in her chosen adjective for what the author understood to be the softly upholstered “square” footstool she wanted replacing? Or should she have called it a cube, tuffet, buffet or hassock?
A cube in one strict dictionary definition is a tuffet, pouffe or hassock describing a piece of furniture used as a footstool or low seat. It is not a stool by its being completely covered in fabric so that no legs are visible. The cubes we are familiar with are fitted with small half inch high plastic glide feet which lift the structure above the floor surface thus avoiding scuffing at the edges. By virtue of its very regularity the cube is similar in all dimensions, length, depth and height.
Pouffes tend to be lower versions of cubes. Again, the receptacles for the feet are softly upholstered and tend to be square and softly upholstered. What distinguishes them in the first instance is their height as pouffes within our understanding are lower than cubes acting exclusively as footstools rather than as seating footstool cubes - of which we have an excellent selection on offer in over 100 different fabrics and colours. They may also not be framed in wood although with longevity in mind a glued hardwood frame makes for a longer lasting pouffe that may be passed down from generation to generation.
The other words used to describe a pouffe or cube, tuffet and hassock are both derived from old English names for a small grassy knoll, hillock or clump of grass. These terms have been in use since at least the sixteenth century and are commonly associated with the nursery rhyme featuring Little Miss Muffet. Some historians claim the rhyme was written by Dr. Thomas Muffet, a sixteenth-century English entomologist, for his daughter.
Buffets have their origin in the North of England. Some commentators suggest the meaning derives from the growth of the railways in Mid Victorian times when the soft couplings of trains coming together was aided by buffers which eased vast structures together. From this some suggest the term “buffet” arrived in colloquial parlance to parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. In later years it developed to become the term used to describe a low square seat or footstool.
A hassock is lower in height than either a pouffe or cube and is usually to be found as a stuffed woven bag of soft material for kneeling upon in churches. The term “hassock” is frequently confused by religious followers with tuffet in its association of the act of kneeling at prayer or genuflecting. If we were to be pedantic and to sum up, from tallest to smallest we would have in order of decreasing magnitude, cube, pouffe, buffet, tuffet and hassock.