Thursday, 19 June 2008

Over the fence and far away, you pale bastard

(Posted from Blogger in Draft, just to see what will happen)

I used to rather like the phrase "Beyond the pale". It has a nice ring to it. It nicely encompasses an iambic rhythm and an expression of moderately stern disapproval.

Now, I'm not so sure. While typing up my last post, I did a spot of googling to check that it wasn't actually "beyond the pail", and found the Wikipedia entry for the single word pale.

I quote:

"The word pale derives ultimately from the Latin word palus, meaning stake. (Palisade and impale are derived from the same root.) In this case it literally refers to a stake (or pole) that forms part of a protective fence around a settlement. From this came the figurative meaning of 'boundary', and the concept of a pale as an area within which local laws were valid.[2]
The phrase "beyond the pale", meaning to go beyond the limits of law or decency, was in use by the mid-17th century. The phrase is possibly a reference to the general sense of boundary, not to any of the particular pales that bore that name,[3] although in the Atlantic Isles it is popularly understood to be a reference to the Pale in Ireland. To 'Go Beyond the Pale' in that context is to leave the civilized (English) world behind and enter the uncivilized (Irish) world. It therefore has strong racist anti-Irish overtones."


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