[Ads-l] Put the kibosh on: Evidence it referred to a whip, #1
Cohen, Gerald Leonard
gcohen at MST.EDU
Wed Jun 6 14:13:42 EDT 2018
In 2017, Stephen Goranson, Matthew Little and I published the book Origin
of Kibosh (in the expression put the kibosh on.) The origin of the expression
had long been mysterious, but thanks primarily to Stephen Goranson, the answer
is now clear, at least in the view of the three authors: We deal originally with the
kurbash (a type of whip made of hippopotamus or rhinoceros hide and shaped like
a stick. This kurbash is also occasionally spelled kibosh.
I'm not sure when the book will be reviewed in the scholarly journals, but I would like now
to share with ads-l the seven main pieces of evidence that the expression put the kibosh on
referred originally to the kurbash. Here is the first installment:
PIECE OF EVIDENCE #1:
A line in the poem (ca. 1830) Penal Servitude! specifically defines the
noun kibosh as a lash. The key verse in the poem (supposedly written by
a convict who has returned from imprisonment in Australia) is:
There is one little dodge I am thinking,
That would put your profession all to smash,
It would put on the kibosh like winking,
That is if they was to introduce the lash.
The poet is aware that his readers are likely unaware of the meaning put
on the kibosh and therefore promptly clarifies: That is if they was to introduce
The meaning of the verse is that the application of the kibosh (a type of whip)
would bring your criminal profession to an immediate halt. The kurbash/kibosh
was a fearsome instrument of punishment.
This poem was the starting point for the origin of put the kibosh on.
Gerald Cohen, Stephen Goranson, and Matthew Little. Origin of
Kibosh: Routledge Studies in Etymology. (London and New York:
Routledge; Taylor & Francis). ISBN 9781138628953. The book
gives 2018 as the date of publication, but it was in fact available
already by mid-October 2017.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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