Mark A. Mandel
mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU
Fri Dec 17 17:05:10 UTC 2004
>> 1. Has anyone put forth a good reason why it COULD NOT HAVE come
>> from the Gaelic "cie bas" = "black cap" theory?
> As far as I can tell the purported Irish etymon might be "caipin báis"
> = "cap of death" or so, and maybe there's a short form of "caipin" like
> "caip" to make the thing phonetically plausible, I don't know. At a glance
> I don't see any relevant word like "cie". The various spellings and
> glosses given suggest that most of us don't know much about Irish (I
> surely don't).
Quinion (http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/kibosh.htm) attributes this
etymology without citation to the Irish poet Padraic Colum. (Quinion
dropped the second "a" in "Padraic".) Colum joined the Gaelic League about
age 20 (http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/findaids/colum.htm), and whether or
not he could even speak the language, he probably knew more about Irish than
98% of the members of this list, and certainly more than all of us in this
thread so far put together. If he said that that was a phrase in Gaelic, I'm
willing to accept it on his authority until counterevidence appears.
>I don't know that I've ever seen any quotation from any time showing
> this used in Irish; maybe it's a genuine expression, but this is one of
> those stories that goes around without any supporting citations. As long as
> no etymology has been established, all conjectures are permissible, some
> more likely than others may[ ]be.
Amen. "Why couldn't it be?" can be said of anything. I once asked a Chasidic
rabbi how he could believe certain superstitions, such as always disposing
of your nail clippings lest some evil person use them to make magic against
you. His answer was, approximately, "Nothing in Torah [here = 'Old
Testament'] has been disproved or ever can be. Rabbinical opinions such as
that one are in theory subject to scientific disproof, but it has not been
disproved, and I hold it as valid and true." -- I do not.
>> 2. Why is the word "bosh" NOT related to "kibosh?" I understand that
>> "bosh" is supposedly from the Turkish. But why couldn't it have been
>> related to "kibosh?" The close timeframe of such related terms would
>> seems to be made to order for their being related. I know this isn't a
>> sufficient reason for them to be related, but, they COULD be. At least,
> I think it is said that "bosh" came (not from the Turkish spoken by
> some Turks at a London coffee-shop but) from a certain novel. Without a
> special source such as that novel, Turkish origin of an arbitrary English
> word would usually be a priori unlikely, I think. Again, various
> conjectures can be entertained, until the truth comes to light. Since my
> knowledge of Turkish is slightly less than my knowledge of Irish (if
> such a thing is possible), I won't make any remarks on possible Turkish
The Turkish *word* is reliable:
[a. Turk. bosh empty, worthless; the word became current in Eng. from its
frequent occurrence in Morier's novel Ayesha (1834), which was extremely
popular, especially in the Standard Novels edition 1846.]
1. Contemptible nonsense, stuff; trash; foolish talk or opinions.
2. int. Stuff and nonsense! Humbug!
-- OED Online
That doesn't prove it as etymon by this route or any other, but as far as it
goes, a line of OED on Turkish is better than an uncited Colum on Irish.
-- Mark A. Mandel
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