Tag Archives: kibosh

Cassidese Glossary – Kabosh, Kybosh

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

I have posted before about the supposed Irish origins of the phrase ‘to put the kybosh on something’. In a post called Putting The Kybosh On Cassidy (May 2016) I pointed out that kybosh has often been claimed to be of Irish origin, a corruption of caip bháis or caidhp bháis, meaning death cap. The usual explanation for this is that it refers to the black cap donned by a judge when passing the death sentence, though other claims include that it refers to a method of torture used by the English called pitch capping, or to a part of a shroud that covers the face of the dead. There is no evidence for the phrase caip bháis existing in Irish at all, and caidhp bháis is only used in the late 20th century as the name of a fungus known as the death cap in English.

Cassidy found the claim about the Irish origins of kybosh online and included it in his book but it is clear that this particular mythical etymology predates Cassidy by almost one hundred years.

We don’t know where the word kybosh really comes from. You can find an interesting discussion of the term kybosh by Anatoly Liberman on the OUP blog:

https://blog.oup.com/2013/08/three-recent-theories-of-kibosh-word-origin-etymology/

As I stated in another blog post, More On The Irish Origins of Kybosh, I found an explanation for the myth about the Irish origins of the word in the Irish Newspaper Archive. The earliest references to the word in Irish newspapers were in 1909. They were also by far the most interesting. In an article called An American Professor on England published on November 29th 1909, an anonymous staff author of the Freeman’s Journal wrote:

Many expressions familiar in American-English are clearly translations or adaptations from the Gaelic: not a little slang was good idiomatic Gaelic, and such an extraordinary word as kybosh – “to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme” – takes a very curious interest when, as Mr J.H. Lloyd tells in one of his invaluable vocabularies to Irish poems or stories – it is traced to the extinct phrase “the cap of death” – i.e. the black cap of the hanging judge.

J.H. Lloyd, or Seosamh Laoide, was an Irish language expert. However, Lloyd himself then replied to this on December the 2nd in the Freeman’s Journal, complaining that his views had been misrepresented:

Dear Sir – In your issue of 29th November, one of your leader writers, towards the end of the article “An American Professor on England”, quotes me in connection with the word “kybosh”, to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme. So far, he is correct. When, however, he adds the explanation “the cap of death,” apparently attributing this to me, he is very much astray.

In the vocabulary to Mac Mic Iasgaire Bhuidhe Luimnigh, published by the Gaelic League, I set down that caidhp bathais, to my surmise an expression of the lost Leinster dialect of Irish, was the probable etymon of “kybosh”.

He goes on to say that caidhp bathais would mean the cap or coif of the crown of the head. He says that kybosh could not come from caidhp báis because the o of kybosh is a short vowel. He states clearly that he has never actually found an example of this phrase in use in the Irish language (“though I have failed to find the word in use in an Irish dress”). In other words, the myth about caidhp bháis can be traced to one mistaken reference in 1909 and has been repeated endlessly ever since.

However, while there are plentiful uses of kybosh, coybosh and even caidhp bháis in the Irish papers from the second decade of the 20th century until the last few years, there are absolutely no traces of caidhp bháis, caip bháis, caidhp bhathais or caip bhathais (or any of the versions without the séimhiú which modern Irish grammar would require) anywhere before the 1909 references. This is 75 years after kybosh’s first appearance in England. And we need to note that many expressions like spraoi and craic have made their homes in the Irish language and been accepted as intrinsic and ancient parts of that language by its speakers, even though they aren’t.

Níos Mó Ar An Chaidhp Bháis

Phostáil mé roimhe seo faoi bhunús Gaeilge (mar dhea) an fhrása “to put the kybosh on something.” I bpostáil darbh ainm Putting The Kybosh on Cassidy (Bealtaine 2016), luaigh mé gur minic roimhe seo a maíodh gur Gaeilge é kybosh (i bhfad sular foilsíodh leabhar bómánta Cassidy). Deirtear gur leagan truaillithe de na frásaí caip bháis nó caidhp bháis atá ann. An gnáthmhíniú air sin ná gur tagairt atá ann don chaipín dubh a chuireann breitheamh ar a cheann agus é ag daoradh duine chun báis.

Is féidir plé spéisiúil ar an téarma seo le hAnatoly Liberman a léamh ag blag an OUP anseo:

https://blog.oup.com/2013/08/three-recent-theories-of-kibosh-word-origin-etymology/

Sa phlé a rinne mé ar an bhunús Gaeilge a mhaítear don fhocal kybosh, luaigh mé nár tháinig mé ar thagairt ar bith don bhunús Gaeilge seo roimh cheann a foilsíodh ar an Cornell Daily Sun i mí na Nollag, 1936. San alt sin, tá cur síos ar léacht a thug fear darbh ainm Conboy faoi bhunús Gaeilge roinnt focal i mBéarla.

“Kibosh,” Conboy said today, “comes from ‘caip,’ which means cap, and bais,’ which means death. “It originated in Ireland about the time of Judge Norbury, who was called the ‘hanging judge.’

An lá faoi dheireadh, bhí mé ag déanamh roinnt taighde nach mbaineann leis an ábhar seo ar na Irish News Archives (Cartlanna Nuachtán na hÉireann), cartlann bhreá inchuardaithe de shean-nuachtáin Éireannacha. Bhí mé ar shéala an ríomhaire a dhruidim agus dul a luí, nuair a shocraigh mé kibosh/kybosh a chuardach lena fháil amach cad é a bhí ann.

Tá an plé thíos bunaithe ar thorthai an chuardaigh sin.

Sa Kerry Champion ar an 6ú lá de Mheán Fómhair, 1930, foilsíodh litir ó dhuine a d’úsáid an leasainm Oisín i ndiaidh na Féinne. Bhí an duine seo ag labhairt ar an Choláiste Gaeilge ar an Daingean i gCiarraí:

I asked him all about the Colaisde. “The Colaisde is it?” said he. “The koybosh (caip bhais) is put on it altogether for the past few years, and this year beat them all.”

I dtús báire, shíl mé gur léirigh seo go soiléir gur cor cainte Gaeilge atá i gceist le koybosh agus gur fíorphíosa fianaise é seo. Agus sin ráite, nuair a léigh mé an chuid eile de na haltanna, ní raibh mé chomh cinnte sin.

Ar an 21ú Aibreán, 1933, ar Scéala Éireann (The Irish Press) deir Seosamh S Ua Ceallaigh ó Richmond i Surrey gur tagairt atá ann don chaipín dhubh a chuireann breitheamh ar a cheann agus gur caip báis atá ann sa Ghaeilge. Ach, ceithre lá ina dhiaidh sin (25ú Aibreán 1934), scríobh fear darbh ainm Rice ó Liatroim san Irish Press gurb ionann é agus ‘an chuid sin den chochall a tharraingítear síos thar aghaidh an duine mhairbh go díreach roimh an adhlacadh’. Maíonn ‘Ballyduag’ gur caipín dubh an bhreithimh atá i gceist san Irish Independent ar an 10ú Aibreán 1943, ach faoina litir tá litir eile le John Grogan ó Bhaile Átha Cliath, a shonraíonn go bhfuil an frása an chaip báis ag tagairt don chaipín pice a bhí mar chéasadh/pionós ag na Sasanaigh in Éirinn san 18ú haois.

Ach ní hé sin a dheireadh. Scríobh duine dar leasainm “Periscope” san Irish Examiner ar an 18ú Eanáir, 1927 gur tháinig “putting the kybosh on it”  ón fhocal Gaeilge “cabais”. Dar leisean, ciallaíonn cabais bheith ag labhairt raiméise faoi ábhar. Ar ndóigh, níl mórán measa agam ar an tuairim seo. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil a leithéid d’fhocal ann agus cabais. Tá focail ann atá cosúil leis, ar nós cabaireacht, ach níl rud ar bith ann atá cóngarach go leor, dar liom féin.

Deir litir ón Chanónach Maguire, S.P., san Irish Independent ar an 26ú Eanáir 1943 nach bhfuil baint ar bith idir an fhocal kybosh agus bosh (raiméis) ach gur tháinig sé ó caoi bais, nó “bealach an bháis”. De réir cosúlachta, níl duine ar bith eile ar aon intinn leis agus níl an frása seo le fáil i bhfoinse ná i dtéacs ar bith eile.

Agus sin ráite, agus mé ag amharc ar na tagairtí éagsúla, fuair mé gur cumadh na cinn is luaithe, agus is spéisiúla, sa bhliain 1909. In alt darbh ainm An American Professor on England, a foilsíodh ar an 29ú Samhain, 1909, bhí an méid seo le rá ag scríbhneoir anaithnid ar fhoireann an Freeman’s Journal:

Many expressions familiar in American-English are clearly translations or adaptations from the Gaelic: not a little slang was good idiomatic Gaelic, and such an extraordinary word as kybosh – “to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme” – takes a very curious interest when, as Mr J.H. Lloyd tells in one of his invaluable vocabularies to Irish poems or stories – it is traced to the extinct phrase “the cap of death” – i.e. the black cap of the hanging judge.

Ba shaineolaí ar an Ghaeilge é J.H. Lloyd, nó Seosamh Laoide. Ach thug Lloyd freagra ar an alt seo ar an 2ú de mhí Nollag sa Freeman’s Journal agus ba léir nach raibh sé sásta. Rinne sé gearán gur cuireadh a chuid tuairimí as a riocht:

Dear Sir – In your issue of 29th November, one of your leader writers, towards the end of the article “An American Professor on England”, quotes me in connection with the word “kybosh”, to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme. So far, he is correct. When, however, he adds the explanation “the cap of death,” apparently attributing this to me, he is very much astray.

In the vocabulary to Mac Mic Iasgaire Bhuidhe Luimnigh, published by the Gaelic League, I set down that caidhp bathais, to my surmise an expression of the lost Leinster dialect of Irish, was the probable etymon of “kybosh”.

Deir sé ina dhiaidh sin gur caipín nó fial bharr an chinn an chiall a bheadh ar caidhp bathais. Deir sé go bhfuil guta gairid sa dara siolla de kybosh agus go gciallaíonn sin nach dtiocfadh leis teacht ón fhrása caidhp báis. Deir sé go neamhbhalbh nár tháinig sé riamh ar shampla den fhrása in úsáid sa Ghaeilge (“though I have failed to find the word in use in an Irish dress”). Agus deir sé go bhfuil sé lánchinnte go bhfuil kybosh eile ann, frása a tháinig ón Ghiúdais nó ón Eabhrais. Deir sé gur 18 pingin nó rud éigin gan luach an chiall a bhí leis sin. De réir Laoide, mar sin, tá dhá bhunús ar leith leis an fhocal kybosh, ach deir sé fosta go bhfuil an leagan focal sin “to put the kybosh on something” iontach tipiciúil de chomhréir na Gaeilge agus gur léiriú láidir sin gurbh ón Ghaeilge a tháinig sé. (Tá cor cainte den chineál chéanna ó Chorcaigh pléite agam ar an bhlag seo, mar atá, an frása “to put the cawheke on something”.)

Cad é a chiallaíonn seo uilig? Bheinn níos sásta anois glacadh leis an fhéidearthacht gur frása de bhunús Gaeilge atá ann, thagann duine éigin ar fhianaise. Ach ní leor a rá go bhfuil dul na Gaeilge ar an fhrása “to put the kybosh on it”. Nach bhfuil neart frásaí den chineál seo nach bhfuil baint acu leis an Ghaeilge, leithéidí “to put the damper on it?” Agus cé go bhfaightear leithéidí kybosh, coybosh agus fiú caidhp bháis go minic i nuachtáin Ghaeilge ó fhichidí an 20ú haois, níl rian ar bith de caidhp bháis, caip bháis, caidhp bhathais nó caip bhathais le fáil áit ar bith roimh na tagairtí in 1909. Sin 75 bliain i ndiaidh don fhocal kybosh bheith curtha i gcló den chéad uair i Sasana. Agus ní mór dúinn a chuimhneamh gur glacadh le cuid mhór focal ar nós spraoi agus craic sa Ghaeilge, agus measann a cuid cainteoirí gur dlúthchuid sheanbhunaithe den teanga iad, ainneoin nach bhfuil sin fíor.

Chomh maith leis sin, is léir nach bhfuil sa bhaint idir an focal kybosh agus caidhpeanna báis (cibé míniú atá agat ar an fhrása sin) ach raiméis. De réir cosúlachta, tá sé le cur síos do mhíléamh nó cuimhne iomrallach ar bharúil Leoide sa ghluais i leabhar leathdhearmadta a foilsíodh in 1909. Más amhlaidh atá, is eiseamláir luath é den dóigh a scaiptear méimeanna bréige go víreasach cionn is go bhfuil cruth na fírinne ar na fíricí bréige iontu agus gur furasta cuimhneamh orthu mar gheall air sin.

More on the Irish origins of kybosh

I have posted before about the supposed Irish origins of the phrase ‘to put the kybosh on something’. In a post called Putting The Kybosh On Cassidy (May 2016) I pointed out that kybosh has often been claimed (long before Cassidy’s idiotic book was published) to be of Irish origin, a corruption of caip bháis or caidhp bháis, meaning death cap. The usual explanation for this is that it refers to the black cap donned by a judge when passing the death sentence.

You can find an interesting discussion of the term kybosh by Anatoly Liberman on the OUP blog:

https://blog.oup.com/2013/08/three-recent-theories-of-kibosh-word-origin-etymology/

In my discussion of the supposed Irish origin of kybosh, I mentioned that the earliest discussion of this I had found came from the Cornell Daily Sun in December 1936, where there is an account of a lecture by a man called Conboy about the Irish origin of English words.

“Kibosh,” Conboy said today, “comes from ‘caip,’ which means cap, and bais [sic],’ which means death. “It originated in Ireland about the time of Judge Norbury, who was called the ‘hanging judge.’

The other day, I was doing some unrelated research on the Irish News Archives, an excellent searchable archive of old Irish newspapers. Just before closing the computer and going to bed, I decided to look up kibosh/kybosh and see what I turned up.

The discussion below is based on the results of that search.

In the Kerry Champion of September 6th 1930, we find a letter from a person calling himself Oisín i ndiaidh na Féinne (Oisín after the Fianna) talking about the Irish College at Dingle in Kerry:

I asked him all about the Colaisde. “The Colaisde is it?” said he. “The koybosh (caip bhais) is put on it altogether for the past few years, and this year beat them all.”

At first, when I saw this, it seemed to me a strong indication that koybosh is really a native Irish expression. However, having read the rest of the articles, I am less sure.

On the 21st of April, 1933, in the Irish Press, Seosamh S. Ua Ceallaigh of Richmond in Surrey says that it refers to the black cap the judge puts on and that it comes from caip báis. However, a man called Rice in Leitrim in the Irish Press four days later (25th April 1934) says that it means ‘that portion of the cowl which is pulled down over the face of the dead immediately before interment’.  The claim about the judge’s cap is also made by ‘Ballyduag’ in the Irish Independent of Feb 10th 1943, but below his letter is a letter from John Grogan of Dublin, who states that the caip bais [sic] refers to the pitch cap used by the British in the late 18th century as a torture/punishment. There is no evidence or reference to any published or manuscript source in any of these letters.

However, someone called “Periscope”, writing in the Irish Examiner of January 18th, 1927, says that “putting the kybosh on it” derived from “cabais”, to prate or speak nonsensically or stupidly about a subject. When anyone talks that way he puts the “kybosh” on any further argument. This seems a weak and irrelevant claim, as there is no such word as cabais. There are vaguely similar words like cabaireacht, but nothing I know of closely resembling cabais.

A letter from Canon Maguire, P.P. in the Irish Independent of January 26th 1943, says that the word kybosh has no connection with bosh (rubbish) but that it instead comes from caoi bais [sic], meaning “way of death”. He seems to be alone in this opinion and the phrase is not found in any other source or text.

However, trawling through the different references, I found the earliest were in 1909. They were also by far the most interesting. In an article called An American Professor on England published on November 29th 1909, an anonymous staff author of the Freeman’s Journal wrote:

Many expressions familiar in American-English are clearly translations or adaptations from the Gaelic: not a little slang was good idiomatic Gaelic, and such an extraordinary word as kybosh – “to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme” – takes a very curious interest when, as Mr J.H. Lloyd tells in one of his invaluable vocabularies to Irish poems or stories – it is traced to the extinct phrase “the cap of death” – i.e. the black cap of the hanging judge.

J.H. Lloyd, or Seosamh Laoide, was an Irish language expert. However, Lloyd himself then replied to this on December the 2nd in the Freeman’s Journal, complaining that his views had been misrepresented:

Dear Sir – In your issue of 29th November, one of your leader writers, towards the end of the article “An American Professor on England”, quotes me in connection with the word “kybosh”, to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme. So far, he is correct. When, however, he adds the explanation “the cap of death,” apparently attributing this to me, he is very much astray. 

In the vocabulary to Mac Mic Iasgaire Bhuidhe Luimnigh, published by the Gaelic League, I set down that caidhp bathais, to my surmise an expression of the lost Leinster dialect of Irish, was the probable etymon of “kybosh”.

He goes on to say that caidhp bathais would mean the cap or coif of the crown of the head. He says that kybosh could not come from caidhp báis because the o of kybosh is a short vowel. He states clearly that he has never actually found an example of this phrase in use (“though I have failed to find the word in use in an Irish dress”). He goes on to say that he is quite adamant that there is also a Yiddish/Hebrew expression, with the meaning of 18 pence or something worthless. So according to Lloyd, kybosh has two distinct origins, but he states that the construction “to put the kybosh on something” is typical of Irish syntax and this is a strong indicator of Irish origin. (I have discussed a similar expression from Cork on this blog, namely the phrase “to put the cawheke on something”.)

Where does all this leave us? I am more inclined now to accept the possibility of an Irish origin for this phrase, if the evidence comes to light. However, the mere fact of kybosh using an Irish-like construction is not enough. After all, aren’t there plenty of non-Irish expressions like this? (For example, that put the damper on it). And while there are plentiful uses of kybosh, coybosh and even caidhp bháis in the Irish papers from the second decade of the 20th century until the last few years, there are absolutely no traces of caidhp bháis, caip bháis, caidhp bhathais or caip bhathais (or any of the versions without the séimhiú which modern Irish grammar would require) anywhere before the 1909 references. This is 75 years after kybosh’s first appearance in England. And we need to note that many expressions like spraoi and craic have made their homes in the Irish language and been accepted as intrinsic and ancient parts of that language by its speakers, even though they aren’t.

Also, the association of kybosh with caps of death (whatever explanation you have for that phrase), seems to be completely bogus. It is apparently traceable to a misreading or misremembering of Lloyd’s comment in the vocabulary of an obscure book published in 1909. If so, it is a very early example of the way that fake memes are spread and promoted virally because the factoids sound right and are easy to remember.

 

Putting The Kibosh On Cassidy

In Daniel Cassidy’s worthless book of fake etymology, he claimed that the word kibosh or kybosh is of Irish origin. Cassidy was certainly not the first to claim this and his sole authority for saying it was a website called Cork Slang Online. The usual claim in relation to its supposed Irish origin is that it comes from caidhp bháis or caidhp an bháis or caip bháis, meaning a cap or cape of death. Some sources also mention cie báis, but cie is not a possible word in Irish orthography.

While caidhp bháis is given as the name of a fungus in Irish dictionaries (the death cap), there is no evidence that this is an ancient expression and it may have been composed on the pattern of the English phrase death cap in the 20th century.

There are various explanations for the meaning of caidhp bháis as a possible origin of kybosh. Some people say that it was the black cap used by a judge when pronouncing the death sentence. (I would use caipín dubh, though it doesn’t seem to be in any dictionary.) Others say that it is from the pitch cap, a punishment used by the British in Ireland where a cap of burning pitch was placed on a person’s head. This is more commonly a caipín pice in Irish. On line, I have also found claims that the caidhp bháis was a word for a candle snuffer or smóladán. There seems to be no independent evidence for any of these claims.

Only the mushroom explanation is in the dictionaries. Corpas na Gaeilge (a huge corpus of Irish material from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries) gives a number of examples of caidhp but nothing with caidhp bháis or caidhp an bháis.

We don’t know who first suggested this Irish origin. Charles Earl Funk said that he received this information in a letter from the poet Pádraig Colum. This is not dated but could have been in the 1930s, 1940s or 1950s. However, the earliest certain reference is in the Cornell Daily Sun from the first of December 1936, where there is an account of a lecture by a man called Conboy about the Irish origin of English words. He gives words like shanty and quid (as in a quid of tobacco, which he derives from Irish cuid, a piece) as well as kibosh.

“Kibosh,” Conboy said today, “comes from ‘caip,’ which means cap, and bais,’ which means death. “It originated in Ireland about the time of Judge Norbury, who was called the ‘hanging judge.’ When the people would see him reaching for the black cap he wore when giving the death sentence, they would say: ‘The prisoner is ‘ finished. The judge Is putting on the caip bais – kibosh. Thus when we say we ‘put the kibosh on something,’ we mean we have disposed of it.” (Editor’s note: Some authorities hold that “kibosh” might be of Yiddish origin.)

Strangely, while there is no evidence of caidhp bháis being used in the language long ago, there is certainly evidence of its existence in the language now. For example, there is this, from an article by Donncha Ó hÉallaithe in the online journal Beo in 2012:

Trí dhiúltú do na logainmneacha a bhí ar bhéal na ndaoine, rinne an Donnabhánach a chuid féin, chun caidhp an bháis a bhualadh ar an nGaeilge sa gcuid mhór den tír ina raibh an Ghaeilge in uachtar roimh an Drochshaol. (By rejecting the placenames which were in popular use, O’Donovan did his own bit to put the kibosh on the Irish language in the large area of the country where Irish was in the ascendant before the Famine.)

Unfortunately, this proves nothing. The story of the Irish origin of kibosh is so common and well-known that it is hardly surprising that people have started to use the terms caidhp bháis or caidhp an bháis in Irish in recent years. It sounds convincing and natural enough. However, without some evidence of its use in Irish before speculation about kibosh began, we can’t accept these modern uses as evidence for an Irish origin of the phrase.

There are various theories about the real origin of the word kibosh. You will find an account of these different theories by following this link:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/kibosh.htm