[Ads-l] A few more things about Origin of Kibosh: Routledge Studies in Etymology

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Oct 14 14:02:48 UTC 2017

A few more things about the Origin of Kibosh: Routledge Studies in Etymology book:

The book indeed includes several ads-l posts and credits and thanks the list and several of you.

The book not only presents a case for the origin (of this word with several spellings and, I think, pronunciations), but also considers many other origin proposals, and offers reasons why the origin became mostly forgotten.

The book somehow lacks one 1837 passage that I sent to this list (I let it fall through the cracks; how dare you, me). This quotation is not crucial to our--if I may say so, strong--case, but, as it happens, I learned two things about it (besides its absence) since Gerald, Matthew and I submitted the MS. Here's the passage (as I sent it here in 2006):

1837 The Law of the Land, Or, London in the Last Century: A Drama in Three Acts
By William Henry Wills, p.2:

Damn it Nym, I thought we came here disguised as gemmen on the low toby; and now you've put the kybosh on the whole fake. Here, take the swag. (_offers spoons behind back_)

Thing one: this author, W. H. Wills (1810-1880, lived in London since 1819), knew Charles Dickens,. They met in 1837 and eventually became close friends and Wills Dickens' "sub-editor." In 1912 a book was published: Charles Dickens as Editor: Being Letters Written by him To William Henry Wills... (The 1837 and 1912 books are available at hathitrust.org).

Thing two: Wills' 1837 Drama was presented as if reflecting life one century earlier. But "kybosh"--as well as "fake"--would have been anachronistic then.

The book includes reasons why several alternate explanations fail to convince us. One of those was presented in 2011 by David L. Gold.* It involves clogmaking. Yet according to a forwarded message to LanguageHat blog,** said to be from Prof. Gold:

Suzanne Valkemirer says:

June 9, 2016 at 8:14 pm<http://languagehat.com/liberman-on-kibosh/#comment-2360218>

In connection with the English word kibosh, David L. Gold has recently written me that

“I no longer suggest that the clogmakers’ term may be the etymon of
kibosh as in put the kibosh on (rather, the latter kibosh is probably
the etymon of the former kibosh) or that the word kibosh may have a
slight Jewish connection.

“Now, I find evidence for a different suggestion, not original with me and not involving any Jewish language or Jews, which I will present in an expanded version of the article published in 2011.

“You ask about the full version of the article. It is now available on the website of RUA – Repositorio de la Universidad de Alicante, where it  may be downloaded free of charge. Searching for “David Gold kibosh Revista Alicantina. No. 24, November 2011, pp. 73-129” will take you to it.

“That article is still of value because it clears away a heap of
misinformation that has accumulated in connection with the supposed
Yidish or Hebrew origin of the word. All suggestions having a Jewish
connection of one kind or another are baseless.

“The Maher and Goranson suggestions are indefensible, as I will explain in the expanded version, now in the works.”

The book has ten illustrations, including the broadside now in the Australian National Library presenting "the kibosh" and "the lash" as appositives.

best wishes,

Stephen Goranson

‘After at least 138 years of discussion, the etymological puzzleis possibly solved: The originally British English informalism kibosh as in “put the kibosh on [something]” could come from the clogmakers’ term kybosh ‘iron bar which, when hot, is used to soften and smooth leather’ (with possible reinforcement from Western Ashkenazic British English khay bash‘eighteen pence’).’. Revista Alicantina de Estiudios Ingleses, vol. 24, pp. 73–129.


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