Columns » Words

Words

by and

comment

The child-rearing expert’s column in the daily paper caught Barbara Hawes’ eye:

“The issue of child abduction is interesting if for no reason other than that fact hardly jives with public perception. For example, the U.S. Justice Department has found that per-capita child abduction by people other than family members … has not increased appreciably, if at all, in nearly 20 years.”

Jibe and gibe are frequently confused. You have to work a little harder — though not much — to bring jive into the mix.

The word the columnist wanted was jibe (“to be in harmony or accord”). Gibe means “to utter mocking words; jeer.” Some authorities say that jibe can now be used this way also. I wish they wouldn’t say that.

Jive is swing music or early jazz, as well as the jargon associated with such music. In slang, jive also means “exaggerated or meaningless talk.”

Jive was a word that jitterbugs used. In the ’30s, Cab Calloway asked the musical question “Are You Hep to the Jive?” As recently as the ’50s, a song about a comic-strip caveman declared that Alley Oop was “the king of the jungle jive.” And who could argue?

Bush’s legacy:

A New York Times article about the new Oxford English Dictionary, now being compiled, observed that “No one is particularly proud of the new entry as of December 2003 for nucular, a word not associated with high standards of diction.” (Nor high standards of presidents, either.) If nucular is in, physical may make it too. It’s a word much used by Arkansas legislators: “Looks like we’ll have to cut spending in the next physical year.”

Unnecessary plurals are still running amok. “The book documented the adventures of the Gilbreth clan, which included six sons and six daughters and parents Lillian Moller Gilbreth and Frank Bunker Gilbreth, management experts who focused on the science of motion study and industrial efficiencies.”

Industrial efficiencies? Then why not motions studies? Or managements experts, for that matter.

It may take a commission chaired by James Baker to bring the situation under control.

Add a comment

Clicky