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mic drop

noun [countable]

the action of deliberately dropping your microphone at the end of a speech or performance to show you think it was so good that nothing better could follow it

mic dropper

noun [countable]

mic-dropping

adjective

'Predictions sucked up from a load of reports bubbling away in the rumours cauldron point to apple doing the big 'ta-da' on a beefed-up Siri or a whole new AI platform, … Or Tim Cook could just announce Siri for Mac OS, do a mic drop and walk offstage.'

The Inquirer 13th June 2016

'Notable mic-droppers over time have included everyone from Eddie Murphy to Chris Rock to the Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner.'

Guardian 2nd May 2016

'The dominating victory spurred this emphatic, in-the-moment mic-dropping speech, in which he truly took the title of "The Greatest": … '

Huffington Post 4th June 2016

Ever given a talk or some other kind of presentation which went particularly well and secretly congratulated your relieved self in the immediate aftermath? ("Phew, you nailed it, yay!", discreetly clenched fist.) Well if you were holding a microphone, it now seems there's an alternative method of self-gratification which is rather more public but no less socially-acceptable. This is what's currently known as the mic drop, fast-tracked into the public consciousness by none other than the president of the United States.

the overriding concept is of a speech, performance, or even a simple remark, that's so definitive it leaves no room for further comment

A mic drop occurs when, at the end of a particularly accomplished and well-received performance of some kind, the speaker deliberately lets their mic fall, as a way of indicating that this was a job well done which, in that moment, is unlikely to be bettered by anything that immediately follows it. The concept is perhaps best illustrated by one of the most famous instances of a mic drop to date, at a White House correspondents' dinner in April 2016, when after a series of wry remarks on the race to his succession the president himself rounded off his speech by dropping his mic and uttering the words "Obama out." You can watch the event for real here.

Curiously perhaps, the action of performing a mic drop isn't perceived as particularly boastful, so the expression doesn't seem to carry negative connotations and is successfully embedding itself in English in various ways. Verbally, you can mic drop, or drop the mic, on someone (which basically means that what you did was so exceptional that there's no way that person can top it), a mic dropper is a person who does this, and a common collocation referring to the general scenario is mic drop moment. The adjective mic-dropping is similarly used to describe something that's indisputably impressive. In fact, the idea is becoming so established that these expressions now largely occur in relation to situations which don't necessarily involve a real mic – the overriding concept is of a speech, performance, or even a simple remark, that's so definitive it leaves no room for further comment.

The mic drop idea hasn't escaped controversy however. On April Fools' Day 2016, internet giant Google added a 'Mic Drop button' to its Gmail platform, which terminated an email thread by muting all future replies (thereby implying that this was 'the last word' on a subject). The feature was then hastily removed after a flurry of complaints from users who'd accidentally pressed it and unwittingly appeared rude or unprofessional at work – allegedly in some cases even losing their jobs as a result.

Background – mic drop

As a gesture rather than an expression, the mic drop has been around since the 1980s, a gimmick often used by comedians and rappers. The term today, however, largely owes its recognition to Obama who, by employing the technique in various high-profile scenarios since 2012, has steadily helped bring it under the popular radar.

Through images, video and the power of the meme, other expressions in the same vein, where a physical action represents a particular emotional response, have achieved something like cult status on the internet. Examples are facepalm, fist pump (= swinging a clenched fist into the air as an expression of triumph) and fist bump (when two people lightly touch each other's clenched fists as sign of friendship or agreement).

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published 13th September 2016.

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