Friday, December 10, 2010

The Value of Learning Pronunciation from the Bowery Boys

 Big Rick and I were sitting at the bar a month or so ago and he said “that’ll put the kibosh on that!” (Short I sound, emphasis on the second syllable.) “Kibosh,” I said. ( Long I, emphasis on the first syllable.) We went back and forth with no resolution of the dispute.

I spent a lot of Saturday afternoons as a little kid watching things like reruns of the Bowery Boys. The “boys” had been making movies since the 1930’s in various incarnations. The constants were Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney (Leo Gorcey), Horace Debussy "Sach" Jones (Huntz Hall), Bobby (Bobby Jordan), Whitey (Billy Benedict), and Chuck (David Gorcey). (Later on the Gorcey brothers’ father, Bernard, played Louie Dumbrowski, the proprietor of the sweet shop where they hung out waiting for their adventures in their sanitized New York, blue collar neighborhood.) 

Rick, if he could bring himself to listen to the dreaded National Public Radio, would have gotten support for his pronunciation this morning. There was an exchange between the host and guest about the etymology of the word, with the guest using Rick’s ki BOSH pronunciation. Having learned my pronunciation from Slip Mahoney (when Whitey came into the sweet shop out of breath with news of what the bad guys in the next block were doing and Slip vowed “I’ll put the “KI bosh” on that!”) I was taken aback.

So, rather than working for the past hour, I’ve been researching the elusively pronounced word.

guy goes with me but can’t settle on an origin of the word (though, he mentions the origin promoted by the NPR guest – a kibosh was a “death cap” put on a body in a coffin in Ireland and evolved into putting an “end” to something).

Extensive surfing of dictionary sites finds none use Rick’s pronunciation. Slip Mahoney and I are the consensus winners.

So, you ask, the moral of the story is? Let your kids watch the classics and the dreck – an eclectic education gives them a fifty/fifty chance of being right when they argue with their Big Rick over a beer decades later.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your pronunciation. Never heard anyone say "ki bosh".
Tell Rick he's a yankee. said...

Both and Merriam-Webster's online have both pronunciations.

Of course, if you want to sing "Belgium Put the Kibosh on the Kaiser," you have to use your pronunciation.

Dave said...

Hey Gram, I'm sticking with your second paragraph - I'm giving no ground to Big Rick.

Sonja's Mom said...

I have to go with Big Rick. That's the way we always pronounced it in the mid-west.