I recently had a discussion with a colleague regarding the phrase "a drop". We came up with the following two examples:

Can we change the meeting to a drop later?
Can you move the tab a drop over?

I thought the questions sounded okay, yet my colleague had never heard of the phrase used in such a manner.

In the two example, "a drop" is basically used as a substitute for "a little" or "a bit". It may not be the best word choice, yet is it okay to use "a drop" in such a manner?

Are these sentences grammatical? Is this kind of usage of "a drop" considered slang?

  • 3
    It would be understandable, but it's not an expression I've ever heard. I would think it strange, or playful. – Colin Fine Feb 16 '17 at 22:28
  • Define "valid expression". – Drew Feb 17 '17 at 1:59
  • @Drew I wasn't sure how to phrase my question in a way that will get my point across. I basically want to know if it is acceptable to use "a drop" like I used it in the two example questions. I'm not saying "a drop" is the best word choice, but I want to know if the two sentences are considered proper English. Do you have any suggestions on how I can rephrase my question? – Tot Zam Feb 17 '17 at 2:10
  • 1
    Define acceptable. To whom, in what context? Primarily opinion-based. – Drew Feb 17 '17 at 2:17
  • @Drew I updated my question. Please let me know if it is clearer now. – Tot Zam Feb 17 '17 at 2:39

Yes, the usage is grammatical, and in my opinion most listeners would understand (maybe from pure context) what you mean. That is quite a low bar. In my experience this usage is not slang; I have heard it extremely rarely, if at all. Note, you would also be fighting an alternative meaning of "drop over", which is "to stop by for a short time".

I am not being critical of your question, and even up-voted it. Personally I would feel that the problems encountered in the phrase's use would be a drop over what I would be willing to face.

I decided to ask Mr. Ngram what he thought on the matter:

Ngram: a smidge over, a drop over, a hair over interactive Ngram viewer

I chose three like expressions. I took out "a bit over" because it dwarfed the other three. The normative expression, "slightly over" greatly exceeded even that. The one thing that surprised me about this graph is that I had thought "a smidge over" had a quaint air, as if it were an old-time expression. Apparently not.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    The graph is definitely interesting. I've never heard the phrase "a hair over" used, but apparently it is gaining popularity. And I like the usage of "a drop over" in your second paragraph :) – Tot Zam Feb 17 '17 at 3:26
  • 1
    Clicking through to the Ngram quotes in context, I found examples like "Spreading of a drop over a liquid". This is different from the way that the OP would like to use the term. – Lawrence Feb 17 '17 at 5:03
  • @Lawrence Ah! That probably explains why it shows up so much more often than "a smidge over". Thank you. – RichF Feb 17 '17 at 12:22

I would not use "drop". Better might be:

Can we change the meeting to a bit later?

Can you move the tab a hair over?

One should be sure of the expression before using it. Sometimes using an expression that isn't common can add interest to writing or speaking. But it should be a sparing use. This was a good question to ask.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I'm not asking if it is the best word choice. What I want to know is if it is considered acceptable. – Tot Zam Feb 16 '17 at 23:32
  • 3
    That I would not use it makes me think it should not be used.. There is a fundamental problem with "acceptable"-there is no final authority. I did not write that you should not use the term "drop" in the contexts you supplied. It is not usual usage, so its acceptance might depend on how it is taken by the reader or listener. I gave the answer I could give as the best advice I had.. I think it was a good question, but such questions often do not have obvious answers.. – J. Taylor Feb 16 '17 at 23:47
  • I think it's only acceptable when you're talking about liquids or feelings/sentiment. eg. "dripping with sarcasm" makes sense or "try to have just a drop of [optimism|self-respect|decency]" etc. – Nathan Feb 16 '17 at 23:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.