I was intrigued by the Clinton camp’s response to the Times bombshell about Trump’s taxes. One phrase stuck out:
Clinton’s campaign said the report “reveals the colossal nature of Donald Trump’s past business failures” and declared “the gig is up.”
What does that mean: “the gig is up”? Shouldn’t it be “the jig is up”? Was the Clinton press team so excited that they misspelled “jig”? (Okay, shouldn’t I be more interested in the future of our nation?) Google Ngram Viewer shows that “the jig is up” is way more popular, and always has been, although “the gig is up” also shows up occasionally. But maybe the 2016 campaign will change usage, as with the word denouncement.
Here is a hilariously detailed discussion about jig vs. gig from the CBC. Just a taste:
Replacing the “j” with a hard “g” (as in “guffaw”) suddenly makes the expression far less familiar, if not actually strange, to the ear and eye.
Musicians have called short-term jobs “gigs” since the early 20th century – especially one-night engagements. But do jobs ever become up? Certainly contracts can be up, which means they’ve expired on a specific date. But gigs?
Although there is no reason we couldn’t start saying “the gig is up” to mean “the gig is over,” the phrase isn’t well established.
“The jig is up,” on the other hand, is cited by lexicographers all over the western hemisphere. Indeed, in his Dictionary of Historical Slang, Eric Partridge points out that “the jig is up” was actually “standard English” until 1850, when it slid down a few notches to colloquial status.
Now that I have that off my chest, I can go back to worrying about our future.