more information on the kibosh, qirbach, kurbash

Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Tue Jun 22 14:26:31 UTC 2010

> Given the claim that he was threatened and struck with the kibosh, and
> given the defendant's reply that he finds them disagreeable, "but to talk
> of blows it quite ridiculous," we can conclude that "the kibosh" was an
> instrument used for striking blows--exactly as the kurbach, kourbach,
> qirbach, qurbash, courbache.

This new early example of the term is extremely interesting. However, I'm
not persuaded that the suggested origin in a Middle Eastern instrument of
torture can be supported by it. It is clear from the earliest examples
that "kibosh" was a slang term of the London streets. The whip, and its
name, were hardly well-known even among educated people in 1835. It is
equally reasonable to infer from the two examples and the context that
Myers, the immigrant German (supposed) Jew, was merely referring to blows,
without the use of any implement.

May I put this further example of the term in evidence? It is in a squib
on page 7 of The Age of London of 7 December 1834 (a week after the
example about the case of the two chimney sweeps in the same paper, which
suggests the writer has picked up this new slang term). It is dense with
sarcasm and topical references but concerns a supposed insult to King
William IV by members of what I take to be the Reform party through a
demand that the King should appoint the ministers that they have
nominated, a direct challenge to the royal perogative: "The long-winded
impertinence of Messrs. TAYLOR, GALLOWAY, and Co., received as nice a
"kiboshing" from insulted Majesty as LACON himself could have penned."

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words

The American Dialect Society -

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