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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Turn of the Phrase (Cut of your jib)

While I was watching a 2007 "Doctor Who" episode tonite on BBC America, Donna (David Tennant's time-traveling companion) says to some upper-class guy at some 1920s lawn party, "I like the cut of your jib" when he compliments her on being "a super lady".

Now, you already know this is a snobby party by the fact they live in a lovely, stately manor house, butlers are buttling around in tails and white gloves and the people are being announced; in this case, "May I announce the Colonel Hugh Curbishley...the Honourable Roger Curbishley."

While I find this quite prim and proper and all that rot...the thing I find most strange is the closed captioning portion didn't put the 'u" in "Honourable"...which, to me, really is most distressing. I mean, if you are going to bother popping words underneath the picture in a British show, why not take the time to do it properly, right?

"I say........rather."

Yeah...my sentiments exactly.

But, to get back to the phrase...which I decided would be better than the obvious line of silly snob-gobbery which Donna let fly out of her mouth just moments before, "Topping day what? Spiffing."..."the cut of your jib" is used to comment on someone's appearance and demeanour. It is said it was put into idiomatic use by Sir Walter Scott in his book, St. Ronin's Well (1824): "But if they had come to Saint Ronan's because the house at the Well was full--or if she disliked what the sailor calls the cut of their jib--or if, above all, they were critical about their accommodations, none so likely as Meg to give them what in her country is called a sloan."*

Apparently sailors would differentiate the countries of sailing vessels by the triangular forsail (or jib) of their ships...and possibly this carried over to one's angular features...or more specifically, their nose.

Perhaps this is one reason why people of "such breeding" would walk around with their noses in the air?

* "Sloan" means a rebuff...for all those who were as perplexed as me after reading that line from Scott thinking it might have been "Sloane" and then thinking of "Sloane Rangers"...which came into introduction over here in the States primarily by the British tabloid press referring to Lady Diana Spencer (Diana, Princess of Wales) as a "Sloane Ranger", prior to her marriage, because of her lifestyle in upper-class West London society.

(Yes, I know this isn't just one word...it's a phrase...but I thought phrases would count as well, so there you have it.)


  1. Jolly good... I might learn something here.

  2. Now, maybe I just have a dirty mind (maybe?) but appreciating the cut of one's jib sounds like something much naughtier than liking someone's *nose*! - Nicky

  3. As a Brit I think you missed the boat on this one slightly, it's more about liking your whole demeanor than your nose :) but Kudos on watching the doctor, he's bloody brilliant!!!

  4. But...but...but, Tracy - I said the thing about one's "whole demeanour and appearance" first. :)

    And I've been watching Doctor Who ever since Tom Baker used to do it all those years ago when I was much, much, much younger. Then I stopped watching for a bit and restarted on and off, but didn't like any of the Doctors really until David Tennant came on. Matt Smith seems to be okay...but David Tennant was so much better I think. Still, Tom is my fav. :)

  5. Unckle Skip - Not 100% sure on if you'll learn anything...but please don't let that stop you. ;)

  6. WWFC - You are naughty indeed. I like you already. ;)