Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Various Meanings Of The Word "Jive" & Cab Calloway's "Jumpin Jive"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post focuses on the origin of & various African American originated meanings of the word "jive". This post also showcases a copy of the film clip of Cab Calloways' now memorable performance of his song "Jumpin Jive" that features the tap dancing routine of the Nichols Brothers.

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

The Online Etymology Dictionary [known as the OED]
"jive (v.1) 1928, "to deceive playfully," also "empty, misleading talk" (n.) and "a style of fast, lively jazz and dance music," American English, from Black English, probably of African origin (cf. Wolof jev, jeu "talk about someone absent, especially in a disparaging manner"). Related: Jived; jiving. Used from 1938 for "New York City African-American slang."

jive (adj.) "not acting right," 1969, U.S. black English, from jive (n.) (see jive (1)). Extended form jive-ass (1964, adj.; 1969, n.) is defined in OED as "A word of fluid meaning and application."

From CAB CALLOWAY'S Cat-ologue [Hipsters' Dictionary]
(1) (n) Harlemese speech or lingo; also stuff and things. Ex. "did you bring the jive (liquor?"

(2) (v) to kid along, to blarney, to give a girl a line. Ex. "He
can jive his way into any chick's heart".
Here's the preface for the 1939 edition of that dictionary:
"So successful was Cab Calloway's original "Hepster's Dictionary", the first glossary ever compiled of the colorful and unique words, phrases and expressions employed by Harlem musicians and performers in their own exclusive language or patios, that he decided to revise the booklet, elaborating upon the definitions, including additional terms and giving examples to demonstrate their use. It is presented herewith, containing about two hundred words and expressions employed by the "hep cats" when they talk their "jive", as Harlemese is called on Lenox Avenue. This is nearly twice the number of words included in the original glossary.

The author is indebted to Billy Rowe's Notebook, a column in The Pittsburgh Courier, for some of the new expressions, and to his associates in the profession for calling others to his attention. Since Harlemese or "jive", like all languages, constantly is
changing, he promises a new revised edition of his now famous "Cat-ologue" at still a later date."

From Urban Dictionary - jive
Editor's Comment:
These examples are from this site's readers. The up and down numbers are the number of readers' votes these entries have received as of the date retrieved. (10/24/2012) has multiple other pages of definitions for the word "jive".

WARNING: Urban Dictionary pages often contain profanity, homophobic references, explicit sexual references, racist comments, and other content that is inappropriate for children.
321 up, 166 down
v.:1) to irritate or annoy
2) to throw off someone's style
n.:1) pointless or deceptive talk/rhetoric

v.:"Quit jivin' me, turkey"
n.:"Don't give me that jive"

by 1337|Smi13Y Sep 14, 2003

113 up, 89 down
Jive is a bad thing you fool. If you're talking some jive, it means you're talking bulls**t. If somebody calls you a "jive turkey" you just got insulted.

Fool: "Ima jive turkey"

Me: "I believe you"
by Dope Slanger Oct 18, 2006
Editor's Comment:
In African American cultures, no one would call himself or herself a "jive turkey", just like no one would diss (insult) himself or herself in The Dozens insult exchanges.

Also, the screen name "Dope Slanger" includes an example of African American vernacular - the word "dope" is a Hip Hop word which means "very good, excellent" (since the 1990s?). "Slanger" in that name is a term that was probably coined by that poster and just means "a person who uses slang".

something which is poorly made, cheap, inauthentic, lame (meaning not "hip”, not up to date with the latest fashions)

He gave me a jive Mickey Mouse watch for my birthday. What a cheapskate!
This use of "jive" is often given as "jive ass"

Example: He gave me a jive [ass] Mickey Mouse watch for my birthday. What a cheapskate!
"Mickey Mouse" further reinforces the definition of "cheap", no good, since watches and other products sold by Disney franchises including clothing with depictions of Mickey Mouse characters were considered to be poorly made, and un-hip. (as per some African Americans from at least 1980s to date)

Example: That song was so jive. Yeah, who thought that would be a hit?
Example: You think you got it goin on, but you're just jive.
In my opinion, these definitions evolved from one of the earlier definitions of that vernacular word – "to lie or deceive"
-Azizi Powell, October 24, 2010

FEATURED VIDEO: Jumpin Jive - Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers

Laughland's channel, Uploaded on Jul 31, 2006

Here's a clip from the movie "Stormy Weather" (1943) featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra performing "Jumpin Jive". After awhile they let the Nicholas Brothers jump in and lend their feet to the action.


Click'-Jive-lyrics-Cab-Calloway/83F982FD1A34413F48256C230008D277 for two versions of Cab Calloway's song "Jumpin Jive".



Click for information about Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994).

Click for information about the Nicholas Brothers (Fayard (born 1914) and Harold (born 1921-2000).

My thanks to Cab Calloway, and the Nicholas Brothers for their artistry and legacies. My thanks also to those who comments and transcriptions I quoted in this post.

Finally, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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