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Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 107

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the current health crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored….


This word has changed its meaning a little since the dictionary defined it as “to beat anyone with a stick, or rope’s end: perhaps a contraction of dry rub. It is also used to signify a good beating with any instrument”. Today, it’s more usually used as a way of suggesting that someone has beaten someone in a form of competition or sport, probably by quite some margin. It’s now thought that the word comes from the Arabian word ‘ḍaraba’, meaning a punishment by beating. It could though have come from the old English word ‘drepan’, meaning to hit or strike. I’m not convinced about the dictionary’s ‘dry rub’ argument….