The living room… we like being in there, right? It’s where the TV and microwave burritos get us through slow evenings, a spot to crash with friends, and (in my case) a gathering place for cat and dog hair.
You might think we call it the living room because we do a fair amount of our living there, but there’s a… let’s call it, a slightly more macabre reason why.
The beginning of the 20th century marked some great strides forward for modern medicine. Germ theory was widely accepted, and simple procedures such as washing hands and the introduction of public health measures drastically reduced death rates. So much so that many people felt that humans were on the verge of eradicating illness.
At that time, the room in the home where guests were received was called the parlor. Generally reserved for public gatherings, it was also used for the purpose of a laying out. At the time, it was still common practice for families to hold a wake in their home, with the deceased laid out in the parlor for family and friends to say their goodbyes before burial.
Due to the rise in public health, and new discoveries in medicine, the Ladies Home Journal boldly suggested renaming the parlor the living room, since we wouldn’t be gathering there quite so often after a death.
Then the flu epidemic of 1918 hit…