[Ads-l] Put the kibosh on: Evidence it referred to a whip, #1

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Fri Jun 15 10:40:16 EDT 2018


I am puzzled by the suggestion below that the writer of
the poem Penal Servitude used the word lash
merely to make up a quatrain, i.e., for its rhyme with
the word smash. By that interpretation the word lash
here is meaningless, but nowhere in the verses of
Penal Servitude do we see the writer inserting a
meaningless word.  The assumption that such a
meaningless insertion occurs here overlooks the
much more obvious interpretation that the poet is
defining a term (kibosh) which was almost certainly
unfamiliar to most readers of the poem when it
was written (ca. 1830).

Also, outside of Penal Servitude there are several
pieces of other evidence that the word kibosh referred
to a whip (e.g. the unambiguous quote in the 1892 book by
French-Sheldon), and since that definition makes perfect
sense in the poem Penal Servitude, why should it not be
accepted at face value there?

Gerald Cohen


________________________________
From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at NB.NET>
Sent: Wednesday, June 13, 2018 6:54 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: Re: Put the kibosh on: Evidence it referred to a whip, #1

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
Subject:      Re: Put the kibosh on: Evidence it referred to a whip, #1
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On 6/6/2018 2:13 PM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
> 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 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.
--

My perception is a little different. I believe the most natural
interpretation assigns this poem's "kibosh" about the same meaning it
has today, i.e., something like "stopper" (I think this is used
elsewhere in the same poem) meaning "that which checks or halts
[something]". I do NOT believe the poet probably intended "kibosh" to be
equivalent or synonymous to "whip" or "lash" or to denote a whip or
lash. I think the third line in the stanza in question roughly repeats
the second line, probably just to make up a quatrain.

Of course there may be some poetic license and my assessment (like
others') may not be 100% decisive.

I am NOT asserting that the modern word "kibosh" cannot be descended
from "kibosh" = "kurbash" meaning "[a type of] whip" or so. I don't
believe the poem necessarily contributes any significant information
about "kibosh" etymology.

I have a few other notions but of course I haven't given this subject
much attention compared to the three authors. I have read PART of the
book at Google Books. I have read Gold's paper and something by Maher
(these suggest different etymologies). I do not believe I know a
definite "kibosh" etymology. I can make further remarks, either on or
off the mailing list, if they would be welcome or useful.

-- Doug Wilson





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