Now, the VOA Special English program, Words and Their
Some unusual words describe how a person spends his or
her time. For example, someone who likes
to spend a lot of time sitting or lying down while watching television is
sometimes called a couch potato. A
couch is a piece of furniture that people sit on while watching television.
Armstrong, an artist from California, developed the term couch potato in
nineteen-seventy-six. Several years
later, he listed the term as a trademark with the United States
government. Mister Armstrong also helped
write a funny book about life as a full-time television watcher. It is called the "Official Couch Potato
Couch potatoes enjoy
watching television just as mouse potatoes enjoy working on computers. A computer mouse is the device that moves the
pointer, or cursor, on a computer screen.
The description of mouse potato became popular in nineteen-ninety-three. American writer Alice Kahn is said to have
invented the term to describe young people who spend a lot of time using
much time inside the house using a computer or watching television can cause
someone to get cabin fever. A cabin is
a simple house usually built far away from the city. People go to a cabin to relax and enjoy quiet
Cabin fever is not really a disease. However, people can experience boredom and
restlessness if they spend too much time inside their homes. This is especially true during the winter
when it is too cold or snowy to do things outside. Often children get cabin
fever if they cannot go outside to play. So do their parents. This happens when
there is so much snow that schools and even offices and stores are closed.
people enjoy spending a lot of time in their homes to make them nice places to
live. This is called nesting or cocooning. Birds build nests out of
sticks to hold their eggs and baby birds. Some insects build cocoons around
themselves for protection while they grow and change. Nests and cocoons provide security for
wildlife. So people like the idea of
nests and cocoons, too.
cocooning and nesting became popular more than twenty years ago. They describe people buying their first homes
and filling them with many things. These
people then had children.
Now these children are grown and have left the
nest. They are in college. Or they are
married and starting families of their own far away. Now these parents are living alone without
children in their empty nest. They
have become empty nesters.
VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Jill
Moss. I'm Faith Lapidus.