8.31.2013

Jive vs. jibe

Jive vs. jibe == LaurenWayne.com
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The copy editor is in.
I'm presenting occasional posts on the use of English,
not to be pedantic but just for the fun of language.

I don't know why, but this is one of those word distinctions I relish knowing and wish more people did. Maybe it's that both words are so fun to say.

"Jibe" sounds made up, right? The reality is that "jive" is a much newer word.

If you want to say that something sounds about right, or that something resonates with you, which one do you use?

"Jive" is from the 1920s and refers to a type of swing dance or music (think of a catchy hand jive). It is also the word for a type of street slang and therefore can also be used as an insult for talking that way. ("Stop talking jive!")

"Jibe," on the other hand, has been around as a nautical term (I'll spare you the details) since at least the 1600s, and is also a variant of "gibe," which has been around since at least the 1500s, and means to insult or taunt.

But the one I'm interested in is the third possible definition of "jibe," around since at least the early 1800s, which means — ready? — to agree.

And, therefore, if you want to say that you're down with something (that's my jive talking), you'd say, "That really jibes with me." Not "jives." Weird, huh?

But I dig it.

Feel free to let me know your conundrums or pet peeves.

Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik
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