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The gig/jig is up
April 25, 2008 5:39 PM   Subscribe

MajorDomesticDebateFilter : What is up? She says jig. I say gig. Google is undecided.

...and should we use the original usage or the commonplace usage (if they differ)?
posted by vizsla to Writing & Language (37 answers total)
 
Jig in this sense is indeed the same as jig meaning "dance". The meaning shifted from "dance" (mid-16th century) to "music for such a dance" (late 16th century) to "a lively, jocular, or mocking ballad or song" (also late 16th century). It evolved further to mean "a light, comical performance at the end of a play" (near 1700) and then "a joke, a jest, a sportive trick" (also near 1700). It is from that latter meaning that we get the jig is up which means, etymologically "the game is up" or "it's all over".

While jig and gig appear to be related, the phrase originated as the jig is up, and it is first recorded in the U.S. in 1777 (as the jig is over). And, in fact, this jig is up. On to the next column!


source

posted by sharkfu at 5:42 PM on April 25, 2008


I've only heard jig, but this could be some sort of regional difference.
posted by craichead at 5:42 PM on April 25, 2008


Jig.
posted by tristeza at 5:45 PM on April 25, 2008


Jig. Sometimes spelled with a G, but pronounced soft, like a J.
posted by The World Famous at 5:45 PM on April 25, 2008


Another jig vote. See also.
posted by Mrmuhnrmuh at 5:45 PM on April 25, 2008


I'm afraid the jig is indeed up for your erroneous assertion.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 5:47 PM on April 25, 2008


if you google "the jig is up" the results displays a definition link at the top right:

Results 1 - 10 of about 79,800 for "the jig is up" [definition]. (0.11 seconds)

which leads to here

No such definition link exists for "the gig is up"

So google appears pretty decided.
posted by hindmost at 5:48 PM on April 25, 2008


hindmost: "So google appears pretty decided."

Ok well the internet seems much less decided.

Jig is up About 168.000 results

Gig is up About 91,900 results
posted by vizsla at 5:56 PM on April 25, 2008


vizsla: "Ok well the internet seems much less decided."

"I am a retail clerk" - 238,000 results

"I am a receptionist" - 429,000 results

"I am a dragon" - 4,260,000 results
posted by CrayDrygu at 6:06 PM on April 25, 2008 [28 favorites]


If you combine those results, nearly 2/3 think it's "jig is up," which it is. That's a majority, dear sir. The internet is now in recess.
posted by c:\awesome at 6:08 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


CrayDrygu: ""I am a dragon" - 4,260,000 results"

Maybe you're on to something there. Maybe a younger audience believes the gig is up and the oldtimers believe the jig is up. Who's to say we oldtimers have a monopoly on its usage? Witness the evolution of "I could care less" and "I couldn't care less" for example.
posted by vizsla at 6:12 PM on April 25, 2008


Whatever dictionary that dwells within my Mac widgets specifically uses the example "the jig is up": "the scheme or deception is revealed or foiled".

A gig is a harpoon-like device for spearing fish or frogs. Or a carriage. Or a temporary job or performance.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:13 PM on April 25, 2008


BitterOldPunk: "Or a temporary job or performance."

Yes a more modern usage. Like a music gig. A gig is also a small boat carried on board a larger boat used to carry people on and off shore. It the gig is up, it's time to set sail and clear out. A gig is also a fishing term for a line with many hooks dragged through the water to hook fish. If the gig is up, the job is over and it's time to head home. Who's to say?
posted by vizsla at 6:20 PM on April 25, 2008


Jig.

Languages often change and evolve (devolve?) because of mistakes/creative puns/rhyming slang, but if you are looking for the etymologically correct phrase, then the jig is, indeed, up.
posted by squasha at 6:32 PM on April 25, 2008


From the results of googling "the gig is up", it seems that a fair number of the results on the first couple of pages are making a pun on "the jig is up".
posted by 23skidoo at 6:37 PM on April 25, 2008


Who's to say?

If you're of the mindset that there is no right way to spell/pronounce "the j/g-ig is up", then why bother asking people which usage is correct?
posted by 23skidoo at 6:40 PM on April 25, 2008


squasha: "if you are looking for the etymologically correct phrase, then the jig is, indeed, up."

Etymologically correct. Hmmm .... then don't you mean "if thou seekest the etymologically correct phase" ;)


23skidoo: "why bother asking people which usage is correct

Because I most certainly would not use "thou" anymore.


Ok ok I can see I'm drowning here. You mean to tell me nobody here ever uses "the gig is up"?
posted by vizsla at 6:48 PM on April 25, 2008


I use it! And I've had this exact same argument, but in the end I didn't really care what was "right". I still use gig (hard g as in temp job or performance)
posted by trinkatot at 6:57 PM on April 25, 2008


Styx says that jig is correct, which is good enough for me:

The jig is up the news is out they've finally found me
The renegade who had it made retrieved for a bounty
Never more to go astray
This will be the end today of the wanted man

If you doubt Styx's credentials, I would draw your attention to the fact that that the lyrics also include the term [Face Melting Guitar Solo]. How can you possibly question that?
posted by jtfowl0 at 7:09 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I rarely have any need to use "the j/g-ig is up", but when I do, I say "the jig is up". I've never heard anyone say "the gig is up". I don't use it to mean anything like "the music performance is over" or "the job is done with", I use it when there's something shifty going on where someone is doing something without anyone else knowing, and I find out before anyone else, and I want to tell the person that it needs to stop.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:10 PM on April 25, 2008


You know, CrayDrygu, I was going to call out the lack of quotation marks in your searches (and thus their being far too broad). But:

"I am a retail clerk" - 6 results

"I am a receptionist" - 788 results

"I am a dragon" - 252,000 results

Wow.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:16 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jig. Whence gig?
posted by unknowncommand at 8:50 PM on April 25, 2008


And what is more -

"Jig is up" 876 results

"Gig is up" 850 results
posted by vizsla at 9:38 PM on April 25, 2008


vizla: Without the unbalanced quotation mark, "jig is up" gets 167,000 results.
posted by zamboni at 10:18 PM on April 25, 2008


zamboni: "vizla: Without the unbalanced quotation mark, "jig is up" gets 167,000 results."

If you follow to the end of the results, you only get around 890 results. Google tends to exaggerate the number of its listings vastly. Have a look at the bottom of the link I posted above.
posted by vizsla at 11:13 PM on April 25, 2008


Depends on context. If you mean to say something like your game's over, then it would be jig. I found another internet discussion about this here.
posted by kirstk at 12:51 AM on April 26, 2008


I've never heard anyone say "the gig is up", and if I did I'd assume they didn't know any better (were a new English-speaker or something). Definitely jig.
posted by goo at 1:01 AM on April 26, 2008


The jig is up; the gig is tomorrow night.
posted by Coaticass at 1:37 AM on April 26, 2008


The etymology of the phrase is clearly "the jig is up". A gig comes from jig, but jig was there first. Google search results being apropos of nothing, which isn't surprising.

A retail clerk is an American sales or shop assistant.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:04 AM on April 26, 2008


Jig.

If you follow to the end of the results, you only get around 890 results. Google tends to exaggerate the number of its listings vastly. Have a look at the bottom of the link I posted above.

Just because Google limits the number of pages of hits it'll display doesn't mean the larger numbers aren't roughly accurate. By that method of measurement I'm only seeing 966 occurrences of "cat" instead of the claimed "about 812,000,000".
posted by D.C. at 4:58 AM on April 26, 2008


Jig... I have never in my life heard gig. Ever.

We used to say it when we were kids. Might be from Get Smart, Roger Ramjet... something like that?? Probably not - but along the lines of Scooby Doo, Inspector Gadget.. lame kids detective type shows.

Or!
Something to do with prohibition/bootlegging - you know as in getting busted jitterbugging and getting wasted. The later being completely illegal at the time...

But really - it's an OLD saying. What the hell was a gig back then? Never come across it. IF they had gigs and IF that can be reasoned out of non-sensical obscurity... it's still wrong!!

(SO just mentioned that his dad says it and it referred to a horse jig (as in tack) being busted.)

You are wrong, get over it. You learnt it right but your source was wrong and no amount of arguing your point (ha. points) is going to change that.
Now apologise and get the lady some aspirin.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 6:22 AM on April 26, 2008


Interesting - I'm UKian, and I've only ever heard it as the gig being up, meaning game over, you've been caught out, rumbled, etc. in terms of a job, scam, or practical joke.
A jig has always either been an Irish dance, or a device used to straighten arrows; I can see how the phrase would apply to the former (i.e. the music stops and the jig is up) but not the latter.
posted by Chunder at 6:48 AM on April 26, 2008


I've never heard anyone say "the gig is up", and if I did I'd assume they didn't know any better (were a new English-speaker or something). Definitely jig.

Ditto. And vizsla, you do seem primarily interested in answers that confirm your odd idea about the phrase.
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on April 26, 2008


I'm a UKian and in contrast to my honorable co-citizen Chunder I've only ever heard "the jig is up", never "gig." But then I've never heard "could care less" here either :-)
posted by so_necessary at 8:39 AM on April 26, 2008


The OED has "the jig is up" back to 1800 (and earlier cites for the same meaning of "jig") and on up to present day. No mention of "gig" as an alternate, and of the thirteen meanings the OED has for "gig", none mention it in the context of the phrase.

Which, again, regional variations can occur, but "gig" looks like the outlier here.
posted by cortex at 10:01 AM on April 26, 2008


The jig is up; the gig is tomorrow night.

Yes, exactly, never heard any other usage/pronunciation.

A gig is a harpoon-like device for spearing fish or frogs.

I've also heard this implement called a gigger, and I'd characterize it more acurately as a trident. When using it, you're gigging.
posted by Rash at 3:08 PM on April 26, 2008


Oh, hah. Well, I'm 23 and I have never heard anyone say the "jig" is up, and have always only heard the "gig" is up. It appears "jig" is supposed to be correct so I'm not arguing with that. I am seconding the idea that it's a thing where younger people might say "gig" because it's morphed into that, somehow. (For what it might matter, I live in the Southern part of the US.)

"The gig is up" always made sense to me, too, because I would think of "gig" in terms of a job. Specifically, in this circumstance, a shady kind of "job," like a scheme... like someone might tell a hitman or a mafia member that they have a "gig" for them or other. So to say "the gig is up," I assumed, meant that your cover is blown and your shady scheme is exposed for what it is.

It's funny how, since I'm used to "gig," I feel like saying "jig" makes less sense. The dance is over, yeah, I can see that, but in my head its connotation is too broad. I think it's partly because I've never associated a jig with anything but a lively, goofy dance. I never thought of it as a joke, or an "act" or anything like that.

Actually, thinking back, it might have been possible that in a movie or on TV someone said "the jig is up" and I heard "gig" because it made more sense to me. They do sound similar enough, after all. Interesting.
posted by Nattie at 3:30 PM on May 3, 2008


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