What does ‘spraddling’ mean?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: spraddling….

Something about the pandemic is causing me to read more murder mysteries than usual. I’m not sure why except perhaps that I find reading such books to be shamefully easy and I don’t have the energy to apply much extra effort right now.

A recent mystery I read — and, sadly, would not recommend — is Still Lives by Maria Hummel. My daughter had left it lying on the coffee table and, partly on account of the excellent cover art, I picked it up expecting it to be higher brow than it was.

Too bad most of the writing is mediocre and the plot (which focuses on the art world in Los Angeles) is lacklustre. But at least the book gave me my word of the week, spraddling. Here is how author Maria Hummel used it:

A few cheers go up, and so do a couple of riders, awkwardly spraddling their mounts.

I’ve never ridden a horse — the closest I get to them is during my regular walks in the Southlands neighborhood of Vancouver, —  so I have no idea of the vocabulary associated with riding.

It turns out that to spraddle is to sit or walk with your legs far apart. First known use of the word was in 1632 and it’s thought to be an amalgam of to sprawl and to straddle. Apart from that guess, the origin of the word is uncertain although some scholars believe it might have come from the Norwegian term spradla which means to squirm or to flail.