[Ads-l] Put the kibosh on: Evidence it referred to a whip, #2-3

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Thu Jun 7 12:49:57 EDT 2018

Here are the second and third pieces of evidence that put the kibosh

on originally referred to a whip.  They are presented in the book

co-authored by Stephen Goranson, Matthew Little, and Gerald Cohen,

and four more pieces of evidence will follow in a few days.


2. 1835 quote: ‘r[a]ise the kibosh against me’ True Sun (London newspaper),

     May 15, p. 4/4:                                                                                                                                                                        They say so [make accusations] to rise the kibosh against

             me and my wife.

In this quote and the next one, a German Jew falsely accuses members of

London’s Jewish community of threatening him and his wife with violence.

A kibosh is here being figuratively raised, and in the next example from the

same newspaper story the plaintiff again mentions the kibosh, this time

specifically in the context of being struck. The kibosh in the latter example

clearly seems to refer to a whip. The iron bar used in clogmaking (also called

a kibosh) would fit here semantically; but the term kibosh in that sense is not

attested until 1860, in the north of England, while put the kibosh on is well

attested already in the 1830s in the south of England.

3. Same 1835 article: The German Jew testifies he was struck and specifies the

kibosh as the instrument:

     …and they gets other Jews to give me the kibosh upon me, and it’s

     all the same to me which of the whole set struck me.

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.

From: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
Sent: Wednesday, June 6, 2018 1:13 PM
Subject: Put the kibosh on: Evidence it referred to a whip, #1

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

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list