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

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Jun 27 14:14:21 EDT 2018


I think this should be OK.

Apparently, in Thunderbird, a pair of hyphens alone is viewed as a 
signal to make the text gray and hard to read for the rest of the 
message. It seems three hyphens are OK.

On 6/25/2018 8:30 PM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
 > (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.

---

I think the most natural reading in isolation has "kibosh" = "stopper" 
or so, rather than "kibosh" =

"whip" or so. I plan to say a little more later.

---
 >      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 possibilities known to me include:

(1) "iron bar (as used by a clogmaker)" (attested and apparently claimed 
to be used as a

weapon, 1860, apparently David Gold's past etymon candidate);

(2) something like brass knuckles, mentioned (IIRC) in N&Q (I can't find 
the citation right now);

(3) kurbash (attested in "Sultan to Sultan", 1892).

If one relaxes the criteria to include items which are not known (from 
outside evidence) to be

named "kibosh" (because this is one of the earliest instances and 
"kibosh" might be a foreign

word just beginning to immigrate into English), possibilities are very 
numerous, including:

(4) many weapons and implements (whip, cudgel, cane, sword, etc., etc.);

(5) fist or hand ("raise the hand against [someone]" = "assault 
[someone]" is standard enough);

(6) probably some other things (cf. "raise suspicion", "raise a crowd", 
"raise an outcry", etc.,

etc.).

---
 >       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.
---

But many of the above items might fit OK.

---
 >      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.
....

---

With relation to the word "kibosh"? A literal whipping, i.e., individual 
flogging? I seriously doubt

it. The 17th Lancers of course used military weapons, not kurbashes. The 
Zulu army had over

20,000 men, who were later defeated and dispersed but not (AFAIK) 
individually beaten.

A figurative whipping (as in "Our football team whipped theirs"? 
Probably. I take "kibosh" in this

item to mean "defeat (militarily)" or so. Note that "kibosh" is a verb 
here (unlike in the other

examples).

Later in the same item, there is mention of beatings or thrashings but I 
don't think the presence

of such conventional usually figurative expressions as "tan one's hide" 
in the same ballad with

"kibosh" is sufficient to suggest any relationship. Even if the 
expressions were immediately

contiguous and apparently synonymous, I think the etymological 
relationship would be very

questionable in most cases. E.g., if I were quoted as saying (about the 
victorious local team)

"We kicked their butts! We really clobbered them!" it would not be 
reasonable (without other

information) to deduce an etymological relationship between the words 
"clobber" and "kick" (or

"clobber" and "butt").

---
 >     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.
---

Most likely a figurative whipping, I think. These expressions are not 
very specific; Farmer and

Henley for example defines "tanning" as "beating" ... and not every 
beating calls for a whip

AFAIK.

---

  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.
---

I am undecided on this one.

---

  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].
---

I agree this book shows many good examples of "kibosh" apparently = 
"kurbash".

I still have some questions and remarks which I will get to later.

---
 > 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).
---

The poem does not read exactly right for the above interpretation 
(probably not perfectly for my

preferred interpretation either).

If the third line has "kibosh" = "whip", and assuming "like winking" = 
"quick as a wink", we have

"It would put on the whip quick as a wink". What would this mean? What 
would be meant by the

initial "It"? Would this "it" refer to "dodge"? Would "putting on" the 
whip mean applying it to a

prisoner? Why would the whip be applied specifically "quick as a wink"? 
Why "kibosh" if "whip"

would mean about the same? Or does the poet want to recommend a specific 
exotic style?

(See also my posting of 22-25 June.)

More later.

-- Doug Wilson

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