Grammar

Chester Draws or Chest of Drawers?

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I saw an ad on Facebook advertising a piece of furniture for sale. It offered a reasonable price on what it called “chester draws.”

We chuckled when we saw the ad for a nice set of “chester draws.”

There’s no such thing.

Most bedrooms generally have one or two pieces of furniture along with the bed. One of the traditional bedroom furniture pieces is a dresser. You’ll recognize it as a long, wide cabinet with drawers. And you’ll usually find a mirror over it.

The second piece of furniture you’ll likely find in many bedrooms is a chest of drawers. Usually, it’s taller than a dresser, not as wide and a bit deeper. Where a dresser usually has three rows of drawers, a chest of drawers might have five or six rows.

You use both to store clothes and other items.

So where did ‘chester draws’ come from?

I find it interesting when we realize that there are certain words and phrases we never see written out. I’ll give you an example. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “for all intents and purposes”? Since we usually only encounter it in spoken English, many people think what they actually hear is “for all intensive purposes.” Every now and then, when someone writes it out, they’ll right out the misheard version.

I’ve seen “chester drawers” many times over the years. I didn’t realize it was actually a “chest of drawers” until I was a teen. Of course, I rarely had occasion to consider that particular piece of furniture and what it was properly called.

Picture a chest, the old-timey trunk people would store clothes in. Then picture a piece of furniture with the same intent but that features multiple drawers. The drawers make accessing the clothes easier.

So it’s a chest of drawers, not “chester drawers.”

So where did the “draws” came from?

I think it’s a combination of two things. First, I think draws was simply an erroneous shortening of drawers, although some people do have a difficulty in distinguishing the two.

Second, a southern or an ethnic pronunciation may be at play here. Old timers used to refer to underwear as “a pair of drawers.” Over the years, some shortened the “drawers” to “draws.” Sometimes, it’s simply an accent or dialect at play.

There are a couple of times in the old series Sanford and Son where Redd Foxx’s character of Fred Sanford refers to underwear as “draws.” One early episode, called “A Matter of Life and Breath,” features Fred and his son, Lamont, going to have a chest x-ray. Lamont tells Fred to take a bath and change his underwear.

“Why I gotta change my draws?” Fred asks. “That ain’t where my chest is.”

It’s possible that either a shortening of drawers to draws or confusion about the fact that one of the things you keep in a chest of drawers might be underwear, may have led to the misspelling.

It was definitely good for a chuckle.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.