Shuckin' and jivin'

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Shuckin' and jivin' (or shucking and jiving) is a slang term for the behavior of joking and acting evasively. More generally, the term can also refer to the speech and behavior adopted in the presence of an authoritative figure.[1] Shuckin' and jivin' usually involves clever lies and impromptu storytelling, used to one-up an opponent or avoid punishment. In Ribbin', Jivin', and Playin' the Dozens: The Persistent Dilemma in Our Schools, Herbert L. Foster writes: "Shuckin' and jivin' is a verbal and physical technique some blacks use to avoid difficulty, to accommodate some authority figure, and in the extreme, to save a life or to save oneself from being beaten physically or psychologically."[2]


According to the linguist Barbara Ann Kipfer, the origins of the phrase may be traced to when "black slaves sang and shouted gleefully during corn-shucking season, and this behavior, along with lying and teasing, became a part of the protective and evasive behavior normally adopted toward white people."[3]

According to the 1994 book by Clarence Major, Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang, "shuck and jive" dates back to the 1870s and was an "originally southern ‘Negro’ expression for clowning, lying, pretense."[4][5]

Racial overtones[edit]

The use of the phrase in modern American politics has generated controversy and charges of racism, especially as such usage increased since 2008 and is usually directed at African-American figures. In 2008, New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo said of the Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama, who was running against Hillary Clinton, the candidate Cuomo supported: "You can't shuck and jive at a press conference." Cuomo received criticism from some for his use of the phrase. Roland Martin of CNN said that "'Shucking and jiving' have long been words used as a negative assessment of African Americans, along the lines of a 'foot-shufflin' Negro.'"[5] Similarly, on October 25, 2012, the former Republican Party vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin generated controversy when she stated: "President Obama's shuck-and-jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end."[6][7]

In September 2013, Rush Limbaugh referred to President Barack Obama's strategy on Syria as "shuck and jive." He was criticized by Joan Walsh, Salon's editor-at-large, as "a racist troll".[8]

At the 2008 ESPY Awards, Justin Timberlake used the phrase to complement the agile play of African-American basketball player Paul Pierce. This segment was cut out of the broadcast by ESPN due to "the phrase's racial overtones".[9]

Other uses[edit]

Shuckin' and Jivin': Folklore from Contemporary Black Americans (ISBN 0-253-20265-5) is the name of a book written by Daryl Cumber Dance in 1981.

"Shuckin' and Jivin'" is also the title of a song by the Osmonds 1971.[10]


  1. ^ Linn, Michael D. "Black Rhetorical Patterns and the Teaching of Composition". College Composition and Communication. Vol. 26, No. 2 (May 1975), p. 150.
  2. ^ Reeve, Elspeth, "Was It Racist for Palin to Accuse Obama of 'Shuck and Jive'?", The Atlantic, October 24, 2012.
  3. ^ Kipfer, Barbara Ann; Robert L. Chapman. American Slang (4th ed.). p. 438.
  4. ^ Major, Clarence, Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang, Penguin Books, 1994.
  5. ^ a b "Martin: 'Shucking and jiving' and the campaign trail", CNN Political Ticker – Blogs, January 11, 2008.
  6. ^ Palin: Obama's Shuck and Jive Ends with Benghazi Lies – Fox Nation
  7. ^ Condon, Stephanie, "Palin says her critique of Obama wasn't racist", CBS News, October 25, 2012.
  8. ^ Gold, Hadas, "Joan Walsh: Limbaugh a 'racist troll'", Politico, September 9, 2013: "Bush had Shock and Awe? We're looking at shuck and jive here. That's what I'm gonna name this. The Obama operation in Syria, Operation Shuck and Jive, because that's what this is."
  9. ^ Daulerio, A. J., "ESPN Mum About Timberlake 'Shuckin' And Jivin′' Comments", Deadspin, July 23, 2008.
  10. ^ "Shuckin' and Jivin' – The Osmonds", Lyrics.