[Ads-l] Kibosh = kurbash (whip) in ca. 1830 Penal Servitude

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Mon Jun 25 20:30:05 EDT 2018

(Note: I have avoided quote marks where possible,

since they sometimes turn up as gibberish.)

Doug’s several recent ads-l messages on the term

KIBOSH in the ca. 1830 poem titled Penal Servitude

argue that it has the same meaning as in modern times,

viz. CHECK or STOP. He is emphatic that it is not

defined as a (type of) whip or other concrete object. He

does not rule out  that KIBOSH may elsewhere refer to a

whip but limits his  rejection of KIBOSH as a whip to

Penal Servitude.

    My reaction is that KIBOSH not only *may* refer

elsewhere to a whip but unmistakably does so several

times.  When the 1835 German Jew accused his fellow

Jews that they [open quote] r[a]ise the kibosh against me

and my wife [close quote], what else could he be

figuratively referring to other than a whip?  A stopper or

a check would make no sense here.

     The German Jew then refers to being struck by a

kibosh. His English is not perfect, but his meaning is clear:

[open quote] 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.[close quote]. Again, check or stopper

would make no sense here.

    Now, I have referred to the abhorrent racist rant in the

Punch article of 1879, which includes the following line:

[open quote] He’s off with the 17th Lancers to  kibosh the

festive Zulus [close quote].

There is no doubt (none!) that we deal here with a whipping.

One line says [open quote] That tanning is good for black

hides [close quote], and two follow-up lines liken the Zulus

to donkeys [open quote] that want wallop / And can’t be kept

hunder without.[close quote].

   Then there is the 1901 comment by Thomas Ratcliffe

(Notes & Queries, 9th Series, vol. 7, p. 277): [open quote]

It [kybosh] was also used in the sense of giving a hiding.

[open quote within quote] I’ll  give him what for! I’ll give

him kybosh. [close quotes]. Again, we deal clearly with a

whipping here; Ratcliffe defines the term for us.

     There is also the WWI song with the lines

                   For Belgium put the kibosh on the Kaiser,

                   Europe took the stick and made him sore.

Remember: the kurbash/kibosh was a stick-shaped whip.

KIBOSH in line one clearly refers to the same STICK that

appears in line two.

   And, of course, there is the 1892 book by May

French-Sheldon which in parentheses specifically defines

KIBOSH as a whip: [open quote] Witnessing the event,

Hamidi’s kibosh (rhinoceros-hide stick) went whistling

through the air as he impulsively plunged through the stream

 to chastise the frightened askari. [close quote].

We may now return to the key verse in the poem Penal Servitude:

            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.

We know that KIBOSH is a variant of KURBASH and that

KURBASH is a whip.  We know the first two words of the

last line (That is,) indicate an explanation is about to be

given, and we then see mention of a lash being introduced.

If we now keep in mind the other clear instances in which

KIBOSH = whip, it is hard to interpret KIBOSH in Penal

Servitude as anything other than a whip.  That fearsome

instrument of torture could also serve as a deterrent, and

that deterrent is what would smash (put an end to) the

criminal’s profession.  We clearly see the context in which

KIBOSH (whip) will morph into its present meaning (put

an abrupt end to).

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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