Jive talking

Oooh, now that my headline has infected your brain with a bad Bee Gees song (a redundancy?), let’s talk about the confusion of “jive” and “jibe.”

“Jibe” is very funny-sounding word. It comes from a Dutch word gijpen, Webster’s New World Dictionary says. It’s a sailing term that means to shift a sail from one side of a ship to another or to change the course of a ship. In colloquial speech, “jibe” means to be in agreement or accord. This statement from the chief executive officer jibes with what the employees had been told.

The verb “jive” means to talk in a exaggerated and insincere way, the dictionary says. It is slang, apparently derived from the verb “gibe,” which means to scoff at or taunt. “Gibe” is from the Old French giber, meaning to treat roughly. That’s cool to know, isn’t it?!! (Of course, when I hear the word “jive” I think of a hysterically funny scene from “Airplane,” the 1980 movie, featuring Barbara Billingsley, aka June Cleaver.)

Here is the Word Maven’s explanation of “jibe/jive.”

As long as we’re talking about weird words that are confused, let’s consider “jell” and “gel.”

The colloquial meaning of “jell” is to take definite form. The company’s plans for a new product haven’t jelled. The verb “gel” means to form a gel, to jellify. It can apply to Jell-O, but not to plans.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.