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Turn On, Tune In, Drop Album

Rob Kyff on

Q: Musicians used to "release" a new album, but now a new album is "dropped." What the heck is that? -- Randy, Green Bay, Wisconsin

A: Indeed. Whenever I hear that a group has "dropped a new album," I always picture an old-fashioned 78 rpm record falling to the floor and shattering. Am I showing my age? Am I starting to sound like a broken record?

The term "drop" to refer to releasing a music album dates to at least the 1990s, but its origins are uncertain. The earliest use I could find came in a column by Chuck Arnold of the Philadelphia Daily News on Sept. 16, 1993: "New albums drop like leaves in the fall."

The next citation doesn't pop up until June 4, 2000, when David Bauder of The Associated Press wrote, "Artists try to become ubiquitous near the time their albums 'drop.'" The quotation marks suggest that the term was unfamiliar to readers in 2000, but multiple references in 2001 to "album drops" indicate it soon proliferated.

Some say the expression derives from the dropping of discs from record changers on old-fashioned turntables, or the dropping of the needle onto vinyl records ("needle drop"). Others suggest it originated with the sound engineering term "beat drop" -- the abrupt insertion into a song track of primary rhythmic elements.

The musical use of "drop" to mean "release" has spread far and wide. Fashion designers now drop new lines of clothing, and tech companies drop new apps.

In fact, "to drop" has become a contronym -- a word with two opposite meanings. When we hear that a company has "dropped a new product," does that mean the product has been introduced -- or rescinded?

 

Q: This sentence appeared in an advice column: "He might want for you to advise him." I get chills up and down my spine when I see "for" used this way. Is this ever correct? -- Emily Hughes, Bloomfield, Connecticut

A: I'm assuming these are chills of horror rather than happiness. Like you, I wince at this unneeded "for." After all, "He might want you to advise him" means the same thing.

But is the "want for" usage grammatical? Yes. Technically, "for" functions here as a "complementizer," a word that combines with a clause or verbal phrase to form a subordinate clause.

Nevertheless, "want for" in this context is wordy and conveys a whiff of desperation. And because "want for" is a set phrase with a specific meaning -- lack, e.g., "billionaires want for nothing" -- its use here might temporarily mislead the reader or listener. In short, I want (for) you to avoid it.

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Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to WordGuy@aol.com or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2019 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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