WOTD: Drab

For your cursing pleasure: a Shakespeare diss. It’s a word often asking about because if its use in one of Shakespeare’s most well known speeches.

drab (n.) IPA Pronunciation: /dræb/
harlot, slut, whore

Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder’d,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion!
– Hamlet (II.ii)

This is a portion of Hamlet’s “O, What what a rogue and peasant slave am I” speech, and as I mentioned before, it is one of Shakespeare’s most famous.
Drab has a certain sound to it that is worse than whore. Shakespeare’s lines build in intensity, and this excerpt is no exception. You’ll notice that Hamlet first says, “like a whore” and continues later with, “like a very drab,” and the audience should get the idea that “whore” is a nice word in comparison to “drab.” With this building intensity and the words getting worse as Hamlet continues, we can imagine that a “scullion” is the muck at the bottom of the lake, but that’s a word of the day for another day.