The long silence has been caused by a domestic crisis. My wife, who is increasingly disabled because of a neurological condition, had a fall over a month ago and broke her ankle rather badly. She spent two weeks in hospital, underwent surgery on her ankle, and is now in a nursing home. The resulting mayhem rather put the kibosh on any attempts to blog.

Anyway, kibosh is the topic of this post. A splendid word, I think, but one whose origin I had no idea of. If forced to guess, I would probably have said it came from India. I pronounce it ˈkaɪbɒʃ, but there are alternatives. The spelling has several different possibilities too. In the phrase to put the kibosh on it means ‘to put an end to’, ‘to ruin’.

The OED offers little help other than suggesting Yiddish or Anglo-Hebraic as the source. I have now found an alternative etymology, however — rather a gruesome one, I’m afraid. It is Irish. Caipín (or caip) bháis means ‘cap of death’. One explanation is the tradition of a judge donning a black cap when pronouncing a death sentence. If that were not gruesome enough, the alternative is a particularly barbaric way of executing someone. That is by pouring boiling pitch over their head.

With that charming thought, I will leave you to go and visit my wife.

8 thoughts on “Kibosh

  1. I’m sure all your readers will be hoping for better news of your wife and that she will be able to return home soon.

  2. As someone said a long time ago, “in great crises there is no better companion than a bold heart, and if it becomes weak it must be strengthened from the neighboring parts. Worries die away for the person who asserts himself”.

  3. Very sorry to hear about Elizabeth’s fall and spell in hospital. Please give her our love.

  4. Many thanks to you all for the kind messages. My wife is due to have the plaster cast removed on Wednesday. Then begins the road to some degree of mobility, we hope.

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