Today’s expression is a phrasal verb: to spread out. What does it mean to spread out? For people, we use this when we’re in a crowded place and we each need a little more physical space. Let’s spread out a little bit. When you say, you mean, let’s all put some more distance between us for this activity. We talked about the return to work. Some people may want to spread out a little bit once they get back to the office. They don’t want to be so close to their coworkers—not like before. They want to spread out, so that there’s more space between each person.
Let’s pretend you’re in a classroom full of kids and it’s time for everyone to get up and do some stretching. We used to do that as kids. The teachers saw we were falling asleep so they told us to get up and stretch out. Before we did that, we had to spread out because we couldn’t all be doing our stretching right next to one another. We needed room to move our bodies, move our arms and legs. We needed to spread out. When we talk about people spreading out, we talk about a group of people getting more individual space.
We can also use it for tasks on a timeline. For example, you might have a lot of things to do and you’ve planned to do them in just a few weeks. But you think you will actually need more time to do all those things. Instead of trying to do them one right after another in just a few weeks, you want to spread them out. You want to do them instead over a few months. You want to put more time or more space in between each one.
I hope you remember that we have a free writing course as part of the Plain English membership and it’s available for all levels, including free members. The way I did this free course is I spread it out over five days. I gave you five videos and five activities and I spread them out over five days. I could have just given you one long video, like a two-hour video, and lots of exercises all at once. But who wants to do that? I wanted to spread it out over five days so that you had a little bit to do at a time. That way you could think about the activity between the days. After you register, your first activity is unlocked. Then you have to wait a day for the next one, and so on. The activity is spread out over five days—I put some space, some time, in between each activity.
If you’re baking cookies at home, you don’t want to put the little balls of cookie dough too close to one another on the pan. You want to spread them out a little bit because you need space between them; they’ll flatten out as they cook. You want to spread them out, put some space in between them.
Do you do puzzles? I don’t know if people still do puzzles; I used to when I was a kid. You put a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle together. There are a few strategies. One is to keep all the loose pieces in the box. The advantage here is that it’s harder to lose pieces. It’s less likely that you pet will eat a piece if it’s safely contained in the box. But the down side is that you can’t really see what pieces are available if they’re all jumbled up together.
So my strategy was to spread out all the loose pieces on a big table. That way, I could easily scan them and see their shapes and colors easily over a large area. I took all the pieces and spread them out on the table. It covered a larger area; there was room to see everything. But, if you want to spread out all the pieces, you need a large table. And as a kid, I had to make sure that table was high enough off the ground so that a golden retriever’s tongue could not reach the surface of the table.
Quote of the Week
Here’s today’s quote of the week. It’s by James Webb Young, an advertising executive. He wrote a book about the creative process. It was called “A Technique for Producing Ideas.” Sounds pretty useful, right? “A Technique for Producing Ideas.” Here’s what he said about creativity. He said, “An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.”
The context is that some people worry that their ideas aren’t valid unless they’re 100 percent, totally original; and that the creative process means inventing something that has never been seen before. But the quote says to relax about that. New ideas often come from existing ideas from the past—just with a variation on them, or a new combination of ideas. I kind of like that quote. “An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements,” says James Webb Young.
See you next time!
What’s your puzzle strategy? Do you like them all bunched up or do you spread them out? I know people who just like to rummage through the pieces in the box, but I don’t know how anyone does it. Let me know if the Facebook group by going to PlainEnglish.com/Facebook.
That’s all for today. Coming up on Thursday, Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia landmark was a Catholic church, a mosque, a museum…and is now a mosque again. We’ll talk about that decision and the history of the Hagia Sophia the next time we’re together. Until then, keep up the good work, keep up your practice, and remember to say hello in our new Facebook group.