Zeldman on Dropdown Menus. He’s of the mind that dropdowns are the product of corporate groupthink trying to make every page at every single level in a site hierarchy accessible from every other page at every other level.
In my experience, however, especially with Mambo, it seems that developers are using dropdowns to make their web apps seem more like PC desktop GUIs and less like web pages. That’s not a good thing — at least, not all the time. We’re already familiar with how web pages look; we usually know to check for a sidebar or navigation strip, so if you have an easily navigable hierarchy with clearly defined sections, why burden your audience’s web browsers and your own bandwidth with the bloat of an all-containing dropdown sidebar?
Update: Do dropdowns suck like a remora? “Mousing furiously in a vain attempt to navigate the timing of sublinks” just about describes my experience with a lot of dropdowns out there; only with positioning as well as timing thrown into the mix.
One more update: A Flying Menu Attack Can Wound Your Navigation. David Walker pins the exact piece of jargon I was looking for: “cascading menus,” with lots more insight as to why they don’t work from a usability standpoint.