Toby Keith said of Obama in 2009:

I'm giving our commander in chief a chance before I start grabbing. So far, I'm cool with it."

It appears on Toby Keith's Wikipedia page and originally apparently came from a Politico article.

What does the verb "grab" mean in this context? It does sound like to grasp.


Courtesy of godel9, the original interview is available in video here.

  • I'm a native speaker and I have no idea what grabbing would mean in that context. It is possible he said griping and was misheard.
    – TimR
    Apr 8, 2018 at 15:45
  • What is the source? Are you sure it's "grabbing" and not something that sounds similar, like "griping" or "crabbing", which mean "to complain"? Toby Keith does have an accent.
    – Andrew
    Apr 8, 2018 at 15:45
  • It's certainly not an established idiomatic usage - I don't recall ever hearing it, and it's not easy to find relevant references online. My guess is it might be a metaphoric extension from grab = snatch, bind, stick [as in car brakes, leading to jerky deceleration]. The context pretty strongly implies that to grab means to pass [negative / critical] judgement here. Unless, as suggested, it's some kind of mistranscription. But either way, it's probably not worth "learning" the "meaning". Apr 8, 2018 at 15:48
  • Perhaps it's just an accidentally interpolated R. I.e. - before I start gabbing / running off at the mouth / wittering on [about Obama]. Apr 8, 2018 at 15:52
  • Source clarified
    – Eddie Kal
    Apr 8, 2018 at 15:57

2 Answers 2


Based on the video, I believe he’s saying “crabbing” to mean:

crab, intransitive verb: carp, grouse (M-W, def. 5)

grouse, intransitive verb: complain, grumble (M-W, def. 2)

As others have suspected, it appears to have been transcribed incorrectly.


It would be nice to hear the audio of the original interview .. but since the source of the statement is a Politico article, we have to assume that the writer faithfully transcribed what Toby Keith actually said.

In which case your guess is probably as good as mine, but if forced to paraphrase Keith's statement, I would assume "grabbing" is an ellipsis for "grasping at things to complain about". It's the only thing that fits the context.


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