A chifforobe // is a closet-like piece of furniture that combines a long space for hanging clothes (that is, a wardrobe or armoire) with a chest of drawers. Typically the wardrobe section runs down one side of the piece, while the drawers occupy the other side. It may have two enclosing doors or have the drawer fronts exposed and a separate door for the hanging space.
Chifforobes were first advertised in the 1908 Sears, Roebuck Catalogue, which described them as "a modern invention, having been in use only a short time." The term itself is a portmanteau of the words chiffonier and wardrobe.
The word is used in the United States, primarily in the southern portion of the country, in Puerto Rico, and in Cuba. Its use has been attested as far apart as Georgia and Vermont. In those references, it was used as a water closet or potty (or more accurately a commode). The word has been used in Texas, but is not as common as its synonyms such as bureau or dresser.
Alternative spellings include: chiffarobe, chifforobe, chifferobe, chiffrobe, chifrobe, and shifferobe.
In popular culture
- "Chifforobe" appears frequently in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird. For instance, Tom Robinson "busts up a chiffarobe" for Mayella Ewell.
- In the 30 Rock episode "Rosemary's Baby" when Jack Donaghy is in a therapy session with Tracy: performing a role-play imitation of Tracy's father, he makes a racially stereotyped reference to To Kill A Mockingbird by saying, "Just because I'm an ignorant black man and you paid me a nickel to bust up your chifforobe, doesn't give you the right to call me ridiculous just 'cause I'm proud of my son!"
- In the Venture Bros. season one finale, "Return to Spider-Skull Island", Dr. Thaddeus Venture is splitting his inheritance with his long-lost brother, and offers to give him "the old busted-up chifforobe".
- In Reno911, Season 6 Episode 5, "Dangle's Murder Mystery Dinner: Part 2", Officer Jones is on a call where a woman needs Jones to help her 'bust up a chifferobe'.
- Another author, Judth Ortiz Cofer, recalled a "monstrous chifforobe" from her youth in Puerto Rico,
- There are also many references to "chifforobe" in Kathryn Stockett's The Help and in Ron Rash's masterpiece, Serena.
- This term is also used in the novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker. There, the main character Celie describes that patting Harpo feels "like patting another piece of wood. Not a living tree, but a table, a chifferobe." Later in the book, Celie is not happy about the way she looks, and in that context she contemplates: "Nothing but churchgoing clothes in my chifferobe."
- The chifforobe is an important element of the film Pride of the Yankees. Lou Gehrig's mother purchases a chifforobe as a wedding present for newlywed Lou and his bride Eleanor. The fact that Eleanor is not pleased with it has ramifications for her relationship with her mother-in-law.
- In the Season 2 Airwolf episode "Severence Pay," the use of the word "chifforobe" gives away the identity of the Firm's traitor/mole, Barnes.
- In the Family Guy episode "Brian's Got a Brand New Bag", when Brian is returning the keys to Rita, the 50-year-old lady he was dating states all the old terms for furniture in the room as a place where he can put them. Frustrated and confused, he just throws them on the bed and states that he doesn't "know what the f*ck" she's talking about.
- In the Flannery O'Connor novel Wise Blood the main character, Hazel Motes, returns to his boyhood home after returning from WWII to find the house abandoned, and writes a note claiming his mother's chifforobe.
- Esther Hautzig's autobiographical novel, The Endless Steppe, contains a chifforobe that is Esther's payment for making a sweater. It is one of the few possessions that she owns and is somewhat out of place in the dirt-floor hut in which she lives.
- Dictionary.com website. n.d.
- Elmer Bagby Atwood, The regional vocabulary of Texas, p. 44 (University of Texas Press, 1962) ISBN 978-0-292-77008-9. Found at Google Books. Accessed July 7, 2011.
- Walter J. Brown, J.J. Brown and Thomas E. Watson: Georgia politics, 1912-1928, p. 24 (Mercer University Press, 1989) ISBN 978-0-86554-322-5. Found at Google Books. Accessed July 7, 2011.
- Catherine O'Reilly, Did Thomas Crapper Really Invent the Toilet?: The Inventions That Changed Our Homes and Our Lives, p. 30 (Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2008) ISBN 978-1-60239-347-9. Found at Google Books. Accessed July 7, 2011.
- Frederic Gomes Cassidy, Joan Houston Hall, Dictionary of American regional English, Volume 4 (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002) ISBN 978-0-674-00884-7. Found at Google Books. Accessed July 7, 2011.
- Judith Ortiz Cofer, Silent dancing: a partial remembrance of a Puerto Rican childhood, p. 24 (Edition 2, Arte Publico Press, 1990) ISBN 978-1-55885-015-6. Found at Google Books. Accessed July 7, 2011.
- Horton Foote, To kill a mockingbird ; Tender mercies ; and, The trip to Bountiful: three screenplays, p. 59 (Grove Press, 1989) ISBN 978-0-8021-3125-6. Found at Google Books. Accessed July 7, 2011.
- Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina, (Penguin, 1993) ISBN 978-0-452-26957-6. Found at Google Books. Accessed July 7, 2011.