Beyond the pale

Posted: April 2, 2011 in My Phrases

Unacceptable; outside agreed standards of decency.

Origin

Firstly, let’s get the spelling clear here. It’s ‘beyond the pale‘, and certainly not ‘beyond the pail‘ – the phrase has nothing to do with buckets. The everyday use of the word ‘pale’ is as an adjective meaning whitish and light in colour (and used to that effect by Procol Harum and in countless paint adverts). This ‘pale’ is the noun meaning ‘a stake or pointed piece of wood’. That meaning is virtually obsolete now except as used in this phrase, but is still in use in the associated words ‘paling’ (as in paling fence) and ‘impale’ (as in Dracula movies).

“Both Dove-like roved forth beyond the pale to planted Myrtle-walk”.

www.phrases.org.uk/a-phrase-a-week/subscribe.html

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