Cut of his gib

Posted by ESC on June 13, 2004

In Reply to: Cut of his gib posted by dhm on June 13, 2004

: : interested in the origin and the meaning of "the cut of his gib". Searches yielded the meaning of angry with the gib being the lower lip, but taken in context I don't think that meaning applies. "I like the cut of his gib" seems to be the most common usage.

: I believe this expression has a nautical origin. A "jib" is a triangular sail mounted fore and aft in front of the foremast. Racing yachts typically will be outfitted with several jibs of different sizes and cuts so that the skipper can choose the one best suited for the wind conditions. Flying the wrong jib is a dead giveaway to an experienced observer that one doesn't quite know what one is doing. Hence, "I like the cut of his jib" conveys the sense that, based on appearances, the speaker considers the other person to be able and competant.

CUT OF HIS JIB - "The cut of a jib, or foresail of a ship indicates her character to a sailor and 'jib' means 'face' in sailor's slang. Thus 'don't like the cut of his jib,' which probably dates to a century ago, translates as 'I'm suspicious of him; I don't like this expression on his face.'" From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

Another source, "Salty Dog Talk: The Nautical Origins of Everyday Expressions" by Bill Beavis and Richard G. McCloskey (Sheridan House, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1995. First published in Great Britain, 1983), says the literal meaning of "jib" may be "nose."