Smack Dab

Wonder Why Wednesday: Smack Dab

I hate to admit it, but I have a very limited vocabulary. In both my writing and conversations I find that I use the same handful of words over and over again. If you were to do an audit of my text messages, you’d probably find they are 81% comprised of the word “awesome.”

In order to expand my vocabulary, I have become a big fan of the thesaurus. With a few clicks of a mouse, you can go from an ordinary word like ordinary, to a super-duper word like quotidian (look it up).

Recently I was writing and found myself using the word “exactly” multiple times. To spice things up, I knew exactly (get it) where to go…the thesaurus. That brought me to the phrase “smack dab.”

Smack dab is way more fun to say than exactly, but it got me wondering. Where did that term come from? Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

Wonder Why Wednesday: Where Did The Term Smack Dab Come From?

The first use of the term smack dab dates all the way back to 1892, when it appeared in the sentence:

He hit him smack dab in the mouth”

There is no record of who hit who, or even who is responsible for the words, but the phrase was born.

Let’s break down the two words, starting with smack. In this case it is used as an adverb and is defined as “with, or as with, a suddenly violent slap.” In 1782 Cowper’s John Gilpin said the following: “Smack went the whip, round went the wheels.”

The second word, dab, refers to sudden contact. Robert Armin’s Nest of Ninnies uses it in this sense in 1608: “He dropt heauy as if a leaden plummet… had fallen on the earth dab.”

Put the two together and you have – with a suddenly violent slap of sudden contact. Kinda redundant and violent sounding. I am not quite sure how it equates to the word exactly, but somewhere along the line since 1892 it became a popular term.




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