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My mind is scattered lately, so this week's column will jump around like the kangaroo rat.

Some of these topics come from random words or phrases I've emailed to myself and then forgotten why. I am getting better at deciphering.


I recently saw a sports story (in another paper, of course) that used the word "jive" where "jibe" should have been.

Wrong: "Renewing commitment between the most powerful people in the organization would require a total forgiveness on all sides that doesn't jive with the personalities of men who carry grudges to their graves."

To jive is to talk deceptively, to kid around or to dance to jazz music:

Tell me the truth, don't jive me.

You're descended from William the Conqueror? Who are you trying to jive?

To jibe is to be in accord with something. If it doesn't jibe, then it doesn't make sense:

The princess stayed awake because of a pea under the mattress? That doesn't jibe with reality.

You say Grandma had really big eyes, big ears and big teeth? That doesn't jibe with how I remember her, Red.

I found examples all over the Internet that incorrectly used "jive" instead of "jibe":

Mayor's recollection doesn't jive with facts, committee members say.

Mint report doesn't jive with actual bank balance.

High-end brunch doesn't jive with the service, some of the food.

The English language, word by word, is changing all the time. In the case of "jive," the incorrect usage is so common that the American Heritage Dictionary has added the definition "to be in accord" after its other definitions of the word.

The dictionary adds an important note about the usage, however, acknowledging that "jive" is often used where "jibe" should be.

Then it drops in this curious nugget: "The Usage Panel views this as a mistake. In our 2004 survey, 93 percent of the panel rejected the sentence, 'The two accounts of the incident didn't quite jive.'"

What is this Usage Panel? It's a group of about 200 writers, professors and even diplomats who vote on the acceptability of words and grammatical usages.

I can't express how much I would love to attend one of their parties.


Strange or awkward phrases come from website names where words are pushed together without spaces. If you like rustic settings, you can rent a cabin at Old Man's Haven in Ohio. The website is That sounds less fun.

The Amigone family in New York owns a funeral home chain. The old website was The current one is I think if you're able to ask, "Am I gone?" you probably don't need a funeral home. No offense to the Amigones.

A company called IHA offering vacations in Las Vegas started out with the website It has since been changed.


I believe the prefix "over" is overused. Merriam-Webster lists a string of words beginning with "over" in which it indicates the extreme state of whatever follows.

When you're anxious, you're afraid or nervous about something that may or may not happen. Can one really be "overanxious"? Who is able to determine whether your anxiety goes too far?

Can you "overeducate" someone? No way. A full brain is a good thing.

When you exploit someone, you use a person in some way that helps you unfairly. "Overexploiting" seems downright evil.

Imagination is rare and amazing. Does being "overimaginative" entail delusions?

An obvious thing is something clear. What happens when a thing is "overobvious"? Does it bonk you over the head?

I guess when you concentrate too hard, you may "overthink." Does your brain get overworked? Probably the best cure for that is brain freeze.

Can you make yourself look too good? I don't think so. So why do we need a word like "overimpress"?

Does anyone think it would be possible to be overrich?

Over easy. This one I can accept, because it's how I like my eggs sometimes.

I'm torn on the word "overwhelm." As it turns out, "whelm" is the same thing as "overwhelm." It is redundant. But I'm not sure I can say, "The half-price shoe sale whelmed me."


What makes a person well-heeled? Money, much of the time. Well-heeled is an expression for wealthy (but not overrich). Apparently, shoes tell a lot about a person. Worn heels indicate an empty wallet.

Another theory is that the expression came from a harsher source: cockfighting. Owners would equip the fighting birds with daggerlike spurs for maximum damage.

I like the shoe origin better.

Sources: American Heritage Dictionary, Huffington Post, Merriam-Webster, Virtuaniz, Business Insider, Phrase Finder, World Wide Words

Style on 12/10/2018

Print Headline: 'Misuse' becomes 'common'


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