This phrase in Sunday’s paper stopped me: “the Old Testament God who shows his pleasure in drips and drabs …” I thought the expression was “dribs and drabs,” so I looked it up. Indeed, it is “dribs and drabs.” The colorful, old-fashioned phrase means “a small amount.” (The Los Angeles Times story in which this quote appeared is on Page 5A in the print edition and here in the online edition.)
The word “drib” is related to “dribble.” Here is an explanation of the phrase from The Mavens’ Word of the Day. Professor Paul Brians also addresses the confusion of “drips” and “dribs.” Folks change the unfamiliar “dribs” to “drips,” but I wonder why we don’t change “drabs” to “drops.” Maybe we can start a new idiom: drips and drops.
This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.