Friday, February 28, 2014

JibeTurkey Origin Story: Everglades Challenge 2014

Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.  — E.B. White
My brother called me a few weeks ago to ask for my help. He was tired of explaining his nickname to people. He wanted me to make up a new nickname he could use to sign up for the Everglades Challenge. It's run by WaterTribe so people make up these kind of silly names that seem vaguely offensive to Native Americans or fans of Kevin Costner films. He was considering Longleaf since he is kind of tall and it harkens back to our ancestral home. That's not bad, but kind of irrelevant to the activity. I feel like if you're going to be vaguely offensive you might as well be self-deprecating, so I asked Harry what part of sailing was problematic for him.

"Well, when I jibe I tend to flip over and turtle my boat," he said.

"Hmm, ok, how about Jibe Turkey?" I replied, and he immediately laughed. It sounded pretty good out loud, but I immediately wondered if it was racist. "Or Jibe Turtle? Is 'jive turkey' racist?" I asked.

We projected back to our youth when Good Times was on TV and tried to remember if Jimmy Walker called only white people jive turkey or if it was an equal opportunity insult. We sort of felt it wasn't racist, but we'd never heard a white person say it. Urban dictionary says jive turkey just means bullshitter. That's fine. But we allowed as I should run it through a focus group and be sure. So I asked on Twitter and queried my friends. Everybody laughed. One person thought turkey was as bad as honkey or cracker because he had an uncle who used to call people turkey in a bad way. His suggestion was Jibe Talking. Any BeeGees reference was vetoed out of hand by our cousin the high school band director. That's how Harry became JibeTurkey on WaterTribe.

Cultural Reference Exhibit A: Castaway character Wilson
Our cousin suggested Harry could put the outline of a turkey on his sail next to the dabbler duck (the sailmaker's logo). That gave me the idea for the JibeTurkey avatar. I didn't have a volleyball and I didn't want to bloody my hand so I used a white bucket and some of my porch paint.

JibeTurkey Avatar
I've since found several people that have never heard the expression. Therefore I submit cultural reference Exhibit B.


  1. I have considering naming my small sailboat "Jibe Turkey" for a couple of years. I have a great logo and font picked out and I was thinking of going ahead with the artwork this summer. However, just today, I thought about the possibility of it being offensive and stumbled on your post here. Has the name worked out okay for you? Any backlash?

    1. Not that I know of! Apparently Jibe Turkey is PC by limited test.