Saturday 6 June 2020

Putting the kibosh on it - an etymological mystery now apparently solved


Professor Matthew Little suggests in Origin of Kibosh: Routledge Studies in Etymology that “kibosh may derive from the word kurbash, a long whip used for punishment in parts of the Muslim world. It originally appeared in Arabic and Turkish, borrowed into French as ‘courbache’ and into English as ‘kurbash’ and other variant spellings.”

Co-author Professor Stephen Goranson found a poem, “Penal Servitude!” from around 1830 using the phrase. 

“The key verse in the poem (supposedly written by a convict who has returned from imprisonment in Australia) [includes] the following clarification about ‘put on the kibosh’: ‘That is if they was to introduce the lash.’”

...A Cockney chimney sweep, hauled into court in 1834 with his companion for violating the 1834 Chimney Sweepers Act, had an outburst of frustration and anger after the trial. That outburst — delivered in an unmistakable Cockney dialect — contained a blast against ‘the Vigs’ (Whigs) and the sweep used the new expression put the kibosh on. The London Standard article reporting on the trial was widely reprinted in England, and now people all over the country were reading about 'putting the kibosh on the ‘Vigs.’”
I must say that if someone gave this explanation on Call My Bluff I'd not be convinced, but the true etymologies on Call My Bluff were often unconvincing. 

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