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“Jive” and “Jibe”

My error sensor went off when I read the following on a gardening site:”I don’t know how that will jive with you[r] rose foliage, which depends on what you personally like.”

The word that set off the error sensor is the use of “jive” for jibe.

According to the American dictionary Merriam-Webster, jibe is an intransitive verb meaning “to be in accord [with]” and gives as examples:

his account of the accident jibes pretty well with other accounts;
their inferior status did not jibe with democratic ideals…

This same American dictionary gives two definitions for jive as a verb:

to talk jive, or to fool around
to dance to hot jazz, or to play hot jazz

The British Oxford English Dictionary flags jibe in the sense of “to agree with” as “chiefly U.S.” Unlike Merriam-Webster, however, the OED includes this definition under the word jive:

b. intr. To make sense; to fit in. U.S. Cf JIBE v.

Apparently the mistaken use of “jive” for jibe has become so widespread that it’s on the road to becoming acceptable. At least from a British viewpoint. However, since the expression “to jibe” meaning “to agree with” originated as U.S. slang, and since the chief U.S. dictionary has yet to give a nod to the shift from jibe to “jive,” I conclude that the following examples of “to jive with” are errors:

Why Lacking Homebuilder Confidence Doesn’t Jive With Anecdotal Signs of Life

One of the hardest things to hear as a photographer from the mouth of a client is that your style just doesn’t jive with what they are creating.

Arizona Prison Privatization Proposal Doesn’t Jive with Market

Unless the context is dancing or playing a horn, the expression meaning “to agree with” or “to fit in” is to jibe with.

12 comments to “Jive” and “Jibe”

  • Chuck:
    English is spoken in different registers, from informal to formal–depending upon context. For example, I speak a regional dialect with my family and friends, but I speak standard English in mixed company and at work. Perhaps your work does not place you in situations that call for standard usage.

  • imweiwei2:
    The mishearing of words has led to many mistaken forms becoming standard. Speakers misinterpret a word or phrase and eventually the mistake becomes part of the language. Our words “apron” and “umpire,” for example, entered the language as “napron” and “numpire”; English speakers heard “a napron” as “an apron” and “a numpire” as “an umpire” and so the words lost their initial “n.” It may be that “jive” with the meaning of “to be in accord with” will eventually be accepted. For now, it’s nonstandard. As such, there are contexts in which it is avoided by careful speakers.

  • The spelling “jib” (rhymes with “bib”) seems to have the same nautical meaning as “gybe” (rhymes with “bribe”).

  • Chuck Davis

    I don’t care. I still say “jive with” instead of “jibe with”. It doesn’t really matter because people know what you’re talking about. Splitting hairs with this is just asinine.

  • dp

    I just found this and like jw always believed it was jive. How many times have I said “does it jive” in my lifetime and never once corrected. Though dancing and music require a degree of synchronicity, agreement, then why not adopt “does it jive” as an appropriate alternative?

  • Dr. Nick

    The problem is that most online dictionaries list “jibe” as a sailing term, often with the other meaning not displayed on the first screen. So if you search to see which one you should use, you’ll think (unless like me you do a little digging) that you should not be using “jibe” and instead you will use the “alternative” which, by it’s definition, seems at least a little correct.

  • Stephen Clark

    That jibes with what I thought.

  • imweiwei2

    As a non-native American English speaker, I am easily confused by slang. Did I hear him say ‘jive’ or ‘jibe’? I wonder how poor pronunciation or acuteness in hearing contribute to the evolution of a language.

  • jw

    No kidding… I try to speak correctly but always thought it was “jive” as in two musicians grooving together, thinking people mistakenly said “gybe” which in sailing results in a change of course (which I unconsciously took as disagreement).

  • Lawri Williamson

    THANK YOU! This error is one that causes me to have a small aneurysm every time I hear it. There are so many . . . I should be dead by now.

  • John,
    No. The sailing term probably comes from a Dutch word. The US term “jibe” may have derived from the word “chime.”

  • Does the use of “jibe” as in “fit in” relate in any way to the sailing move spelled “gybe” as in to swing the sail over from one side to the other by turning downwind rather than heading into the wind?

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