Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

“I’m sorry, George, but your personality just doesn’t jibe with our company culture.”

When we encounter a word in English that is spoken more often than it is written, we can sometimes replace the unfamiliar word with one that is more familiar. We might talk about hitting the mother load when we should really be talking about the mother lode instead. And when you want to say that you agree with something, the word you want is “jibe” and not “jive.”

Ignoring the nautical definition for just a moment, to “jibe” with something is to be in accord with it or to agree with it. In the example at the top of the post, the speaker is indicating that George’s personality does not align with the culture and values of the company. They don’t get along.

Conversely, you might say that Elaine and Jerry really jibe with one another. This would indicate that they are compatible. Usage doesn’t need to be restricted to just people, though I find that is the most common way that people choose to use the word. The benefits of a home office really jibe with how I prefer to work. That dress really jibes with your figure.

Part of the reason why some people may mistakenly use “jive” in this context is that they may picture a couple of musicians playing with one another. Jive is a lively style of music, related to swing and jazz. If these musicians are jiving, they’re playing jive music. If these musicians personalities and styles really mesh, then they’re jibing.

Jibe, used as a noun, can also refer to an insult or aggressive remark, which would be the complete opposite of two people getting along. Jibe is also used in a nautical sense to refer to shifting from one side of the boat to the other. These two alternate definitions are not as common.

The English language is constantly changing and evolving. Strictly speaking, “alright” is not a word, but many of us use it. Similarly, while saying that the design of a car doesn’t “jive” with your personal tastes may be technically incorrect, that usage is gaining in mainstream acceptance.

And that doesn’t jibe very well with me at all.