[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:


 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 lash.

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

Book information:

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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