June 28, 2016

BUILDING BLOCKS OF LITERACY

GRAMMAR
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SPELLING
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MECHANICS
Handwriting
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FOUR LEVELS OF LITERACY
L-1 Functional
L-2 Basic
L-3 High School
L-4 Advanced

“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

To jive has to do with music.  The expression meaning “to agree with” or “to fit in” is to jibe with.

Note: Another slang use of the verb to jive is with the meaning “to deceive”:

Don’t jive with me! I want the truth.

8 comments to “Jive” and “Jibe”

  • J Talkah

    Jive works just fine in the “agree” sense as well as jibe.
    In hip (not “hipster”) modernalility JIVE, to the cool beans, means to play well together, in the groove, in the pocket.
    “Hey Baby, you and I just jive!”

  • Matt,
    Everything I know about these two words is to be found in this post and another that I wrote for Daily Writing Tips: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/gibe-gybe-jibe-and-jive/

    As for “chime,” it derives from a Latin word for “cymbal.”

  • Matt

    Is it wrong to assume that because the third definition of jibe (n.) – a snide or cutting remark, seems to marry with the sailing terminology, that the American use of jibe – to accord or fit in, is in fact an older misuse that has come to the dictionary through popular use and convention? No etymological source refers to an origin for that usage that I can find. Is there a source for ‘chime’? The origin for the other usages is rather its opposite, the Dutch gjiben – turn sail suddenly, which is to move against the prevailing wind or prior position. I personally would ditch the use of the definition of ‘to fit in’ and hope it eventually drops out of common usage.

  • 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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