Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Sat Dec 18 09:26:52 UTC 2004

Douglas G. Wilson 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?

Until you cited this, I'd quite forgotten where I got the reference
from. But I must have taken it from that book. I added it to my item
on "kibosh" because it was an interesting conjecture. You will note
that nowhere in that piece do I suggest it's the right answer, just
one of a set of possibilities that have been put forward by various
writers. I have corrected the spelling of "Padraic".

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: <wordseditor at>
Web: <>

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