Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sat Dec 18 01:15:13 UTC 2004

On Fri, 17 Dec 2004 19:32:08 -0500, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:

>Here is a passage from Funk's "Hog on Ice" (1948) (p. 22):
><<But I am indebted to Padraic Colum, well-known Irish author, for what I
>take to be the true explanation. In a letter to me he says: "'Kibosh,' I
>believe, means 'the cap of death' and it is always used in that sense --
>'He put the kibosh on it.' In Irish it could be written 'cie bais' -- the
>last word pronounced 'bosh,' the genitive of 'bas,' death.">>
>Is this the origin of the similar assertion in Hendrickson's book, as well
>as the passage at Quinion's site? Is "cie" Colum's spelling, or a typo in
>Funk's book? When Colum says it "could be written" thus in Irish, does he
>imply that he's never *seen* it written? Even if he's never seen it
>written, he should be able to look up the spelling if he recognizes the
>words, right?

FWIW, Funk repeated the claim in his syndicated column "Power With Words".
 His column of Aug 1, 1952 (appearing in the Reno Evening Gazette) cites
Padraic Colum's theory (though only as a "possible explanation"), again
stated as: "in Irish it could be written 'cie bais'".  So if it was a
typo, it was one that Funk held on to.

--Ben Zimmer

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