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

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Fri Jul 27 02:33:18 UTC 2018

The dating of the poem "Penal Servitude!" may be of some interest. 
Please pardon my ignorance of large sections of the 
Cohen-Goranson-Little book's text (accessed via G-Books).

The problem with undated material is that it is not dated. (^_^)

Apparently, a date of "ca. 1830" has been adopted. The reasoning behind 
this estimate/guess may be clear in the book but largely non-readable by 
me. It seems that the presence of the words "reform" and "reformation" 
in the poem suggests (to somebody) a connection with a "Reform Bill" of 
1832. This seems dubious to me. AFAIK the 1832 bill was related to 
electoral reform, while in the poem -- given its general topic -- these 
words would more likely refer to reform of the prison [system] or (even 
more likely) reform of the prisoner(s). The poem's title (in big 
letters) suggests by similar (casual) reasoning a connection with the 
Penal Servitude Acts of 1853 and later (if with anything). I don't see 
any reason to prefer an estimated date of 1830 or 1832 over (say) 1853. 
There is some reason to be skeptical of a very early date (using 1830 as 
example) with:

(1) 4-year  ostensible antedating of "kibosh";

(2) 14-year ostensible antedating of "bobby" (= "policeman") (mentioned 
in the book);

(3) 13-year ostensible antedating of "Union" (= "workhouse").

These are not _necessarily_ problematic (maybe just honest antedatings). 
(I am using my poor-man's microprinted OED, which is not up to date.)

There is possibly another problem. The phrase "if they was to introduce 
the lash" suggests (to me) that the lash is not in use at the time of 
writing of the poem. I don't know the exact details of the timing (and 
likely the poet would not have known with certainty either) but 
Wikipedia ("Flagellation") says public whipping (of men outside the 
military and the prisons) "ended in the early 1830s, though not formally 
abolished until 1862."

--- Doug Wilson

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

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