Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dripping Along

I remember thinking it was funny to hear "older" people (i.e., in their forties or so) using the slang of MY generation! When words like groovy and man (that pervasive noun of address at one point) and hip, etc. came from the lips of my elders, I remember thinking it was, well, pathetic.

And, of course, I used to smirk (in all my adolescent sophistication) at the outdated slang my "elders" would use.

Now, I'm, oh, about twice as old as the people I used to think were OLD, and this morning I got a little reminder of the evanescence of slang.

At the coffee shop ...

DAN: Time for a refill ...
BARISTA: The kind you like is almost through dripping.
DAN: Drips for a drip.

She had never heard drip employed to mean, you know, dork. I promptly showed her the dictionary.com meaning of drip--it's now the 7th meaning under drip as a noun:

Slang. an unattractive, boring, or colorless person.

It is also definition #7 in my old Random House College Dictionary  (1975), as it is in my Webster's Third

But where does this expression come from? How old is it?

I checked my Dictionary of American Slang (2nd edition) and found the date of 1948 (appropriate: I was four years old then, well on my way to becoming a drip). I loved the definition in full
Any person, usu. a male teenager or student, who is disliked or who is objectionable, usu. because he is a bore, introverted, overly solicitous or is not hip [!!!] to the fads, fashions, and typical behaviour patterns of his age group.

The Random House Dictionary of Historical Slang traces it to 1932 (an obnoxious, esp. a tedious person), to a novel called Men Are like Streetcars, by Graeme and Sarah Lorimer; "I was just thinking over the drips she goes with." I had a hard time finding a copy of the book--but there's one for sale on Amazon. A bit much to satisfy a curiosity! ($65 for a 1932 edition.)

Last look for a source for this--the OED. But ... no luck. Just some other sources ...

c. A stupid, feeble, or dull person; a fool; a bore. slang.

1932   G. Lorimer & S. Lorimer Men are like Street Cars v. 114   He's no drip... Ted's a darn good egg.
1936   N. Marsh Death in Ecstasy xviii. 215   What about that little drip Claude?
1938   J. Cary Castle Corner 279   Ah, ye dirty devil, and what sort of a drip are ye to be dropped in a medical hall.
1951   I. J. C. Brown I break my Word 123   We now more often call a feeble, foolish creature a drip.
1951   J. Cannan And All I Learned xi. 197   Of all the wet drips!
1959   I. Opie & P. Opie Lore & Lang. Schoolchildren xv. 326   Someone considered over-affectionate is said to be soppy, sloppy, gormless, a drip, or a clot.

Last look: Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang, and he suggests it could have come from drivel.

Okay. I didn't really check any online sources (except the OED), and I bet there's a site out there that has the answer.

But ... anyone who pursues this more than I already have risks becoming, you know, a drip.

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