tuffet

“Tuffet” has three different definitions:
– a tuft or clump of vegetation, such as a grass tuffet
– a footstool or low seat (also known as a pouffe or hassock)
– an inflatable cushion serving as landing area for precision accuracy parachuting

Wikipedia says that a tuffet is distinguished from a stool in that it is completely covered in cloth so that no legs are visible, and is essentially a large hard cushion that may have an internal wooden frame to give it shape and rigidity. If you add wooden feet to give it stability, it becomes a stool or footstool. If the piece is larger, with storage space inside it, then it is usually known as an ottoman.

Footstools associated with churches are called hassocks or kneelers, which people use to kneel on when in prayer.

The names ‘tuffet’ and ‘hassock’ are both derived from English names for “a small grassy hillock or clump of grass,” in use since at least the sixteenth century. The word tuffet comes from Anglo-French tuffete. The first known use of the word tuffet was in 1553. ‘Pouffe’ is a nineteenth-century French import for “something puffed out”.

Most of us probably learned ‘tuffet’ from this nursery rhyme, which first appeared in print in 1805:

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

I’ve always taken the rhyme literally, since spiders make me as nervous as they did Miss Muffet. However, there are different claims regarding the source and meaning. Some say it was written by Dr Thomas Muffet (d.1604), an English physician and entomologist, regarding his stepdaughter, Patience. Others claim it refers to Mary, Queen of Scots (1543–87), who was said to have been frightened by religious reformer John Knox (1510–72). 

I’m nervous about heights, too, so I don’t want to explore “precision accuracy parachuting.” And, considering the number of “how-to” sites and pictures of tuffets that exist on the net, I have to assume that tuffet-making has become a major cottage industry.

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