It is like a barber’s chair that fits all buttocks…

– William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well (II.ii.16)

V0019682 A barber's shop: the central figure is a man seated, swathed

Chairs in figurative language are usually imagined without reference to the sitter’s anatomy – as in throne, seat of power, committee chair, etc. Seen as a bearer of buns, a chair loses dignity.

In Gulliver’s Travels, Lemuel Gulliver makes a couple of chairs (like cane chairs) from hair trimmings of the giant queen of Brobdingnag. Then he refuses to sit in the chairs: “I would rather die a thousand Deaths than place a dishonourable Part of my Body on those precious Hairs that once adorned her Majesty’s Head” (part II, ch. VI).

Charles Dickens takes a lustier view in The Pickwick Papers, recounting a dream in which a chair comes to life. The smutty-minded chair boasts that “hundreds of fine women have sat in my lap for hours together. What do you think of that, you dog, eh!” (ch. 14, “The Bagman’s Story”).

Sticklers may point out the Swift and Dickens examples are transformational uses of imagery rather than metaphors – a fair objection, bringing us to one more buttocks-on-chair similitude, from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951):

That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a toilet seat.

Illustration: A Barber’s Shop, aquatint etching by T. Rowlandson after W.H. Bunbury; Wellcome Library

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