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Drip or Drown: The Swagger of Language

Graffiti-like text reading "drippin' swag like a broken faucet"

I was walking out the door the other night to go to dinner when my teenage son’s friend commented, “You look drippin’!”

Then the friend said, “Drippin’ swag like a broken faucet.”

I was lost with the first remark — drippin’ — and pondering the second when the friend explained that “drippin’” is a slang expression used to compliment someone’s appearance. And “drippin’ swag like a broken faucet” means you have an abundance of style and confidence that cannot be turned off.

To me, language itself is drippin’ swag like a broken faucet. It’s got style, swagger, and accessories for life. Language gives us expressions for every sentiment and every occasion, from serious to silly, bright to boring. We have onomatopoeias that sound just like their meaning (truculent must be a fight, oleaginous must be greasy). We have our bread-and-butter words: the, of, and, a, be, an, to, and so on. In all, there are some 170,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary. The average person is said to know approximately 42,000 words.

The terms “drip,” “drippin,’” and “drip or drown” are making their way from a young and urban culture into the mainstream through intergenerational and cross-cultural interactions like my own. What started with a hip-hop artist named Gunna from the South was picked up by social media, pop culture, and music. One phrase became synonymous with Gunna’s music: “Drip or drown.”

The phrase’s origin is traced to Gunna’s childhood, when he and his friends played a game called “Drip or Drown.” The game involved jumping into a pool and rating who made the biggest splash, with the winner being the one who had the most “drip” or style. The playful game eventually became a metaphor for Gunna’s music career, and “Drip or Drown” became a popular catchphrase among his fans.

At first, “drip or drown” sounds like a contradiction and a puzzlement. Compliment or criticism? In the world of hip-hop, it came to represent either succeeding with style and owning that style, or trying with timidity and failing miserably. The phrase continues to evolve as it weaves its way into the mainstream. In the world of fashion, “drip” is about how your style communicates your confidence to the world. Those with “drip” are bold, while those who “drown” lack daring.

For entrepreneurs, “drip or drown” represents taking risks to succeed and stand out in a crowded marketplace. Those with the “drip” can differentiate themselves from their competitors, while those who “drown” struggle to get noticed.

“Drip or drown” may have started as a childhood game, but it has evolved into a meaningful mindset that resonates with people from all walks of life, whether middle-aged moms or teenage hipsters. That’s the power and magic of words to surprise, inspire, puzzle, and connect people across cultures. So the next time you’re picking out your wardrobe for a fun night out, preparing for a big meeting, or faced with an everyday challenge, consider the "swagger" of language, and tell yourself that you have the “drip” to succeed.

Julian Guthrie is the Founder & CEO of Alphy.

Reflect by Alphy®, our AI-powered coach, helps you and your team communicate in a more productive way. Reflect analyzes communication from all angles — ageism, sexism, racism, confidence, sentiment, apologies, and more — to make you aware of your words, tone, and speech across all your devices, from desktop to mobile.


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