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What is it called when you sit like this on a table?

enter image description here

"Leaning against the edge of the table"?

Or is there a better alternative? (I'm sure there must be)

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  • When A leans on B, I think of it as A is supported only laterally by B, it is not supported from underneath. Apr 8, 2023 at 19:28
  • Almost irrelevantly, 'leaning on…' might be a better alternative… Please note that 'Almost irrelevantly' is the operative phrase, not 'better…' Apr 11, 2023 at 21:06

7 Answers 7

17

He’s not sitting, exactly; his butt is not fully engaged in the activity. When this happens, we might use the word perch.

He is perched on the edge of the table. He perched himself on the edge of the table.

From Oxford English Dictionary (login required):

perch, v.1
II. Senses related to PERCH n.1 6.
3. intransitive. Of a bird: to alight or settle on a perch; to roost. Hence of a person or animal: to sit, stand, or rest, esp. in an elevated or somewhat precarious position. Also in extended use.
4. a. transitive (reflexive). To sit or position oneself in an elevated or somewhat precarious position.

Selected sample usages:

2001    C. GLAZEBROOK Madolescents 193    A few arty-farty types are perching on bar stools drinking beer or fancy coffee.
1913    Sat. Evening Post (Philadelphia) 22 Feb. 5/1    Perching himself on the hydrant, young Rosenstein read without further interruption.
2001    Z. MOHYEDDIN in M. Shamsie Leaving Home 225    She perched herself on a big settee.

Explains Collins: If you perch on something, you sit down lightly on the very edge or tip of it: He lit a cigarette and perched on the corner of the desk.

Here are more samples from the Corpus of Contemporary American English:

Bianca’s English teacher perches on the edge of a desk, open book in hand.
She offered me a chair and perched on the edge of the sofa, watching me expectantly.
Bernard perches on the edge of the bench, blinking at Mr. B.
“She’s never been a fashion victim,” says Kors, perching on the edge of an enormous Louis-style desk.

See more samples there at perch* on the edge.

For fun:
Ergo Impact — Is Perching the New Sitting? Research Suggests Yes.
Young man perched on edge of desk, view through open patio doors - stock photo

 

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    OED's definition defines "perch" as "To sit or position oneself in an elevated or somewhat precarious position", so I don't know how he’s not sitting. He is sitting. Moreover, in order for you to use "perch", he must be "in an elevated or somewhat precarious position", which I don't think he is. Note that he looks comfortable in that position with his feet firmly on the ground and even his hands on the table. So he's neither likely to fall nor in a precarious position.
    – JK2
    Apr 8, 2023 at 3:41
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    I'd associate perching with legs dangling off the bottom and not in contact with the floor. You perch on high things.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 8, 2023 at 9:21
  • @JK2 — Did I say he was not sitting? I said he was not sitting, exactly. That means he’s sort of sitting, and there is a word for that. For doubters, I have added a learner’s definition, as well as more samples from the corpus. Apr 8, 2023 at 14:41
  • Why did you use the form He is perched on... and He perched himself on... instead of He is perching on...? And if you're to say He is perching on the edge of the table, why not say simply He is sitting on the edge of the table? I mean, what additional meaning apparent in OP's picture that cannot be conveyed by the latter can be conveyed by the former?
    – JK2
    Apr 9, 2023 at 2:46
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    @theonlygusti — Native English speakers beg to differ, as you can see from the corpus. Apr 10, 2023 at 19:05
16

To me it looks like he's sitting on the edge of the table. I'm pretty sure most of his weight is resting vertically on his butt, because otherwise, the table would've slid back being pushed by his weight sideways and the guy would be lying on the floor by now.

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  • 2
    Looks like the table already slid back. Maybe, that's his second attempt. Apr 8, 2023 at 14:45
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    "He sat on the edge of the table" is definitely the best
    – minseong
    Apr 10, 2023 at 17:26
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A man half-sitting on a table.

OED

Half (adv.) 1. To the extent or amount of half. Hence more generally: in part, partially; to a certain extent, in some degree.

c. Modifying a present participle, e.g. half-comprehending, half-dreaming, half-joking, half-laughing, half-sleeping, half-smiling, half-waking.

1762 W. Cole Let. 16 May in H. Walpole Corr. (1937) I. 7 The lady lies in an half-reclining posture, with her head on a cushion..as though she was asleep.

1817 S. T. Coleridge Biographia Literaria 223 In one of his half-earnest, half-joking moods.

2004 New Yorker 12 Apr. 90/1 The movie reveals the sordidness of adult behavior as it appears to half-comprehending but pure-hearted children.

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Google images for “resting against a table.”

This gives you many similar poses and some different ones. But Googling images for “leaning against a table” brings up similar images.

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/rest+against

rest against (someone or something)

  1. To lean or recline against someone or something; to be propped lightly against someone or something else.
7

This can certainly be called "leaning against the table."

I think it's a very accurate description of the picture. It captures the feeling well too. Leaning is lazy, relaxed, suave.

He lent back against the table and flashed her a debonair smile

"Leaning" might connote that most of his weight supported by the table is going through his hands instead of his butt.

A more accurate adjective describing his pose is "half-sitting", and the best phrase to describe this position altogether is "sat on the edge of the table", or perhaps particularly "sat against the edge of the table".

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    Part of the problem with some of the other alternatives is that they are too stilted or formal for most contexts.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 10, 2023 at 21:33
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    +1 for "leaning against the table" being perfectly correct, and also +1 for "sitting on the edge of the table", which is natural and unambiguous.
    – N. Virgo
    Apr 11, 2023 at 11:50
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Propped up against

Merriam Webster

Prop up 1: to stop (something) from falling or slipping by placing something under or against it.

You could say the man propped himself up against the table. Much like "half sat" it is too general to describe the picture in detail, and would need elaboration to convey details. Depending on how much of an essay you wanted to write you could say

He propped himself up against the table, took most of the weight off his legs, and looked rightwards...

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  • "propped up" is generally used for inanimate objects. If you told me a man was propped-up somewhere, I'd assume he was dead or unconscious. If you say he propped himself up I'd assume he was very, very drunk. Apr 10, 2023 at 21:18
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    @OwenReynolds I take your point for general usage but it what came to mind when looking at the picture, before noticing the pubic bones were resting on the table. FWIW I find "perched" would generally indicate that, like birds, both feet would be on the table. Personally I would go with "he sat on the edge of the table(, dangling his feet on the ground)" and voted accordingly.
    – traktor
    Apr 10, 2023 at 23:52
  • @traktor me too
    – minseong
    Apr 11, 2023 at 11:41
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    He propped his butt on the table, for sure. Apr 13, 2023 at 16:09
1

If you sit and lift your legs, you'd probably stay in place.
If you're perched/leaning and (try to) lift your legs, you'd not stay in place.
Hence the difference between sitting and perched/leaning.

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  • So what phrase would you used to describe this position? Apr 11, 2023 at 8:35

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