Zestful Blog Post #189
In my ongoing campaign for precise language and spelling, today I offer:
The suspect’s account did not jive with the victim’s.
The suspect’s account did not jibe with the victim’s.
Don’t give me that jibe; I know you went bowling last night.
Don’t give me that jive; I know you went bowling last night.
I don’t like the cut of his jib.
To jibe is to agree with or be consistent with. To jive is to talk nonsense, fib, or play jazz; to improvise. But jive is being used so commonly to mean jibe that it’s appearing in dictionaries that way. Please join me in resisting that jive. A jib is a triangular sail on a boat, or a part of a crane. The idiomatic usage, “I don’t like the cut of his jib” means to dislike how someone looks or be suspicious of someone.
While watching an episode of “Mad Men” I was gratified when Bert Cooper corrected one of his underlings. One of the guys said, “I’m hip to that.” Cooper cut in, “It’s hep.”
Just like jive and jibe, hip and hep have become confused. To be hip is to be fashionable and up to the minute; to be hep is to be knowledgeable.
Moving along to:
If these voices in my head keep up, I’ll soon be in a straightjacket.
If these voices in my head keep up, I’ll soon be in a straitjacket.
Strait means narrow, restricted, which is what one of those garments does to a person. Straight means extending in one direction with no deviation. But again, the misuse is so common, both spellings are becoming acceptable. Just not by me.
Also, let’s consider:
That point is so obtuse, nobody here can understand it.
That point is so abstruse, nobody here can understand it.
He’s the most obtuse student I’ve ever tried to teach.
Abstruse means obscure or difficult to grasp; obtuse means dumb or dull. (An obtuse angle in geometry is one with a blunt—or dull—point: greater than 90 degrees and less than 180.) (Thanks, RM!)
Lastly, a few fine points involving vowels:
Each of these drums is a timpano. Together, they are timpani. When I play them, I call them timps.
When cheering a mezzo-soprano, yell “Brava!” When cheering a tenor, yell “Bravo!” When cheering the ensemble, yell “Bravi!” If you’re really excited, yell “Bravissimo!”
A man travels incognito. A woman travels incognita. When a guy conducts an orchestra, he is a maestro. When a gal does it, she is a maestra. (Hilarious that my auto-speller tried to reject maestra. Also timpano.)
All right, I feel better.
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