Category Archives: Word origins

Looks at where words came from.

Man spread — what the heck is it?

Man spread? Really!manspread-a definition

This is a new term, and is not made up.

Here is the definition of man spread or man-spread:

when men take up too much room on the subway by spreading their legs in a wide v shape.  Also, dangling your legs to take up extra space while seated on public transit or draping your legs across multiple seats.

I seldom ride public transit so I did not know this was a major problem but it is in large cities.  Apparently, an average chair is 17.5 inches wide, and this is home much space one should occupy on a bus or subway.

Some people are taking up more than their allotted space.  This can also be called bench hogging.

In Philadelphia signs on their transit system read “Dude it’s rude . . . Two seats — really?”  The New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) just launched an etiquette ad campaign that includes cartoon posters of a spread-eagled transit rider that says “Dude . . . Stop the Spread, Please. It’s a space issue.”

Who knew?


Haboob — What the heck is it?




Watch out for the haoob

I always look for unusual words when I am reading.  I also keep my ears open when I listen to talk radio or podcasts.

The other day, I saw a report about the recent six/seven feet of snow that got dumped on New York and the surrounding areas.

The report referred to the storm as a haboob.  Now there is a term that is new to me.

In my research, here is what I found for definitions of haboob.

The word “haboob” originated in the Arabic language.  The Arabic word, habb means “wind.”

It is a wall of dust resulting from a mircoburst or downburst of air.  The air forced downward is pushed forward by the front of a thunderstorm cell. This drags dust and debris with it as it moves along the ground.

Now you have a better understanding of the word haboob.



Pangrams — using all the letters


The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. How many times did some of us bang out this sentence on a typewriter (remember those?)  as we learned to type—oh so long ago.

I recently found out there is a name for sentences like this.  They are pangrams.  This is a Greek word meaning every letter.  In a pangram, a sentence contains every letter of the alphabet in one sentence. They are also known as holoalphabetic sentences.

Pangrams are a good way to display typefaces or practice calligraphy, in addition to aiding in learning where the letters on a keyboard reside.

What Examples:

We promptly judged antique ivory buckles for the next prize.

Brown jars prevented the mixture from freezing too quickly.

Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

Fred specialized in the job of making very quaint wax toys.


Hippotherapy – maybe not what you thought

Hippotherapy is another new word for me. I heard it on the radio, so I had to knowhippotherapy_definition  more.   (No, it is not where they put a hippo on a couch.)

In reality, hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy. A therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input. It is meant to improving coordination, balance, and strength.

It is not the same as therapeutic horseback riding.

The word hippotherapy has its roots in the Greek word hippos (horse). It literally refers to treatment or therapy aided by a horse.

Hippotherapy is not new. It is mentioned in the ancient Greek writings of Hippocrates—Hence, the name.  Even though it is that old, the discipline was not developed until the 1960s, when it began to be used in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland as an adjunct to traditional physical therapy.

Now you know a new word – HIPPOTHERAPY!

Titivate — look sharp now


Titivate is the word today.  I got this one from one of the Words By Bob readers.  She said the word was used in a television.    She thinks it was used incorrectly, and the interviewer was looking for the word tittilate.

Here are some definitions of titivate:

To make small improvements or alteration  to (one’s appearance etc.)

to add some finishing touches to.

to make smart or spruce

Synonyms for titivate include beautify, deck out, embellish, gussy up, prettify, smarten and spiff up

The word comes from a modification of earlier spelling– tidivate .  It may come from the word tidy  and-vate.  Some suggest it follows the pattern of words like cultivate and renovate

Alternate spellings are tidivate, tiddivate or tittivate