In common usage, spread simply means “distributed over a wide area,” be that area gambling, toast, a dining table, or ranching. Inherent to the term—and very important—is the idea not just of extension, but of covering. Thus in ranching, where spread is in all likelihood a shortened version of cow spread, it doesn’t refer just to the land the ranch encompasses, but also to the buildings, fences, cattle, horses, equipment, and hands scattered, or “spread,” over the place, holding it together and making it work. However, as the term has been imported back into urban areas, where “wide area” is something of a relative idea, spread is seeing use again on a much more limited scale, as in Carl Hiaasen’s Sick Puppy, set in South Florida: “Nice spread the guy had: old two-story Spanish stucco with barrel-tile shingles and vines crawling the walls.”

Stephen Graham Jones