Wednesday, July 07, 2010

WNW: I Cling to JIBE!

So saith Melanie J in a recent e-mail (and many others who have asked me about this one, as well as friends who try to correct one another).

Here's the issue: which is correct, JIBE or JIVE?

As in:

It doesn't JIBE with that.

It doesn't JIVE with that.


I've heard rather heated, adamant arguments both directions. When the question was posed to me some time ago, I wasn't sure. They both sounded right, and I could argue either.

So I turned to my handy-dandy research sources.

One of my faves, Brian's Common Errors in English doesn't even list it.

So I turned to my trusty OED.

That's where I learned that contrary to popular belief, neither is incorrect, and they both mean "to fit in," "make sense of," or "be in harmony with."

JIBE is the older of the two, making its appearance in print around 1813.

JIVE, the much younger word sibling (showing up in 1943 with this meaning), is just as legitimate, if newer.

(Those who favor JIBE will be happy to know that some dictionaries don't include this definition under JIVE.)

My guess is that JIBE shifted to JIVE as result of what people thought they were hearing.

The B sound in JIBE is easily softened and almost non-existent when you say "it doesn't jibe" quickly. If JIBE doesn't have another word after it, the B almost disappears entirely.

Then with the creation of swing music, people would JIVE, and that word was far more common that JIBE (which originally was a SAILING term back in the 1600s). Without getting all technical, both sounds are made at the front of the mouth; it's easy to see how one could morph into the other.

That's how, in my word nerd but non-professional opinion, I think JIVE took on the meaning of JIBE.

And today we use both. (You'll find JIBE/JIVE on page 68 of my grammar book, but not in so much detail.)

If you must, you can certainly cling to JIBE.

Just try not to twitch when others use JIVE, because it's correct too.


Kristina P. said...

Very interesting. I don't think I've ever heard "jibe" before. I always thought it was jive.

Jenny P. said...

I'm with Kristina. I didn't even know jibe was an option. I've always thought jive.

DeNae said...

You have my complete and unqualified support on this one.

Now, please explain to me why we've stopped spelling "dilemma" as "dilemna". Cuz it really frosts me.

Oh, and I was told that the word "slackard" had never existed, but guess what? I SAW IT IN A BOOK! Recently and everything!

I just wanted to share my victory with someone who would appreciate it.

Amber Lynae said...

I hadn't heard jibe. That doesn't mean that it hasn't been said to me, because even if it was said I would have just assumed they said jive.

Melanie Jacobson said...


Sher said...

That's interesting. I've never heard the word Jibe before.

And I keep thinking "get jiggy with it" but maybe I'm missing the point all together. ;)

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

You know, I've wondered about that before. Figured jibe was a nautical reference and jive was a dance reference. I love when things make sense.

Myrna Foster said...

I don't really care what people use; they both make sense. Thanks for the history though.

Jessica G. said...

After posting, I think I used the wrong form of affect/effect...have you done a WNW on that one? I can never remember the rule.

Susan Anderson said...

I think you got that one just right, Annette.


Michelle said...

My hubby is going to hear about this one. He convinced me jibe was the One and Only True Way, and I adopted it.

But now I don't feel so bad about thinking it was jive for so long.

Maybe I'll switch back, just to dribe him a little crazy. ;)

Donna Tagliaferri said...

I can help, since I don't care for either one....let's dump them both!!

See Mom Smile said...

Do people really stay up at night wondering wich is the correct word? I am busy wondering what I am going to feed my family!

wendy said...

As a girl of the 60's...I think I'll stick with JIVE


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