“I like the cut of your jib” – Meaning and Origin

Throughout time, we have had many ways of telling people we liked how they looked—whether that be in a flirtatious manner, or just a platonic one.

As with all phrases, most will come and go. They’ll be at the height of their popularity before dying out.

“I like the cut of your jib” is a phrase many don’t understand.  It’s rarely heard these days, but it just means “I like the way you dress”.

It’s a very old fashioned phrase that comes from the jib of the ship, a piece that you would have to had been an incredibly skilled sewer to be able to create.

In case you don’t know a “Jib” is just a part of a ship, and we’ll be getting onto what it does later in the article.

Today, I also want to talk about why we complement people, why the phrase died out, and whether or not we should bring it back.

Why do we give compliments?

I’m sure that at some point in our lives, many of us have been given a compliment. When asked why we give them or why we like receiving them, many of us will often respond with “because it’s nice”, and don’t get me wrong, they are, but I think there’s more to it than that.

Compliments can enable us to make others think highly of us, as we’ll be seen as a pleasant person to be around. But they can also increase your chances of having people do things for you in the future.

What is a Jib?

But onto the “jib”.

Have you ever looked at a ship and noticed it has several large sails, and near the front a smaller sail? This sail is usually triangular.

That small triangle is known as the jib, and whilst some might think it’s just there because it looks nice, it actually served an important role in making sure the ship was kept stable. The performance was as efficient as it possibly could be.

Without the jib, the ships would have been harder to control, and more likely to topple over. However, most modern ships don’t require jibs to stay afloat.

Styles of Jib

Traditionally, jibs would have been a fair bit smaller than the other sails. They would have been located near the front of the ship, and they would have provided help rather than total control.

The only type of modern ship to have jibs most of the time are sailboats. These jibs often need to be larger as smaller boats are less stable by nature. Having a large jib is essential for people who like to sail.

Origin as a phrase

The origin of the phrase “shape of your jib” came about in the 1800s. As you can imagine, this was near to the end of when ships started using them, and nearly to the beginning of when we transitioned from using the wind to steam.

When it first came about, it was mainly used as an insult, “I don’t like the shape of his jib”, meaning, “There’s something about him that I don’t like”.

However, it soon changed to become more common in compliments. At the height of its popularity, it was a common way to tell people that you liked how they dressed.

Why did it die out?

The main reason why the phrase died out is likely because people no longer knew what a jib was. And why would they?

People who grew up with steamboats wouldn’t have much reason for knowing about sails and jibs. When the need for jibs died out, it makes sense that phrases related to them died out too.

But another key reason is that our vocabulary changes over time. Phrases that we use all the time won’t mean anything in years to come. It’s likely that younger generations just didn’t want to be using the same slang as their parents.

I like your cut G

One phrase that sounds similar and has a similar (but different) meaning is “I like your cut G”.

“I like your cut G” means, I like your haircut. It’s become well-known thanks to the popular social media app Tik Tok.

“Cut” is slang for “haircut”.

And G is a bit of an interesting one. The G stands for gangster, but people who say it aren’t calling you a gangster. Usually, when people say G, they mean friend or person I have respect for.

So remember, “I like the cut of your jib” is different from “I like your cut G”.

Modern Alternatives

These days, there are plenty of modern alternatives.

Usually, we would say something along the lines of “Looking fresh/dapper/stylish”. However, if you were to say any compliment, relating to the way someone dresses, you will be saying what would have been said as “I like the cut of your jib”.

I have to admit, I’m not exactly “down with the kids”, so I’m not 100% sure what the most popular way of complimenting someone’s dress sense is. But I have an inkling it’s something along the lines of “looking poggers”.

Should it return?

Yes

Some would argue that “I like the cut of your jib” ought to make a return. Even though we don’t tend to use jibs anymore, it’s always good to learn about our history. And it’s far better than a bland compliment.

No

On the other hand, some would say that it’s better to let a dead phrase stay dead. We don’t use giant ships, and very few of us even use sailboats, so learning about jibs is just going to be trivial.

Instead of trying to revive an old phrase, we would be best suited, trying to think up new ones that would work better in our modern culture.

Conclusion

“I like the cut of your jib” just means “I like how you dress”. Giving a compliment like this can have many benefits, but if nothing else, it’s just nice!

A jib is triangular sails that helps a boat stay stable, making it easier to control when the waters get rough. Traditionally, they would be one of many sails, but in modern sailboats, the jib is usually the primary sail.

The phrase died out because jibs were no longer being used, and in my opinion, whilst it’s good to know about it, there really is no point in trying to bring it back.