Printable Version
Pronunciation: drêb Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To thoroughly beat with a stick or cudgel, to whip or flog, to thrash someone violently. 2. To pound or force, as to drub something into someone's head. 3. To defeat roundly, as in an Olympic game.

Notes: Sometimes we forget where a word comes from, and today's Good Word is a perfect example of such neglect: we use the noun (a) drubbing far more frequently than its underlying verb. Moreover, we generally reserve the noun for figurative rather than literal use, as to give the opponents in a football game a sound drubbing. Someone who drubs is a drubber who may land only one drub (single blow) on the object of his or her disaffection.

In Play: We have such a vocabulary for beating each other up—hit, strike, beat, thrash, pound—that yet another such term hardly seems necessary. But this Good Word has a sense of nonchalance that its synonyms lack: "Herb, I can't persuade our daughter to apply for college; would you see if you can drub some sense into her head?" Of course, we are much more likely to hear claims like this: "After drubbing his fellow golfers for many years, Tiger Woods was taking a drubbing from the US press."

Word History: Today's Good Word first appeared in print in England in 1634 and was used in connection with the bastón "(walking) stick, cane, prod", a Spanish word sharing an origin with French bâton, which English also borrowed. The early references all originated with travelers to the East, suggesting it came from Arabic darabe "to beat" or darb "a beating". In Turkey the word was pronounced durb, but along the Barbary Coast, what is now Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, it was sometimes pronounced d'rab or even d'rub. Since Christians in the 17th century were often captured and imprisoned in this area, it would make sense that they would be familiar with this word in the worst way. (Drubbing came to the fertile mind of Diane Ament and she thought it a good idea to share it with the Good Word folks.)

Dr. Goodword,

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