"beyond the pale"

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sun Jan 2 16:51:00 UTC 2011

My impression is that "beyond the pale" refers to the Pale of Settlement that separated the English from the barbaric Irish in 17th C Ireland.

I probably first saw this statement in "The Story of the Irish Race", by Seamus McManus -- first published in the 1920s, and evidently given as a Christmas/birthday present to every Mick in the Boston area, probably more than once.  The used book stores of Boston in the 1960s were laden with copies.

McManus was an amazing Irish Supremacist.  I once asked a friend, Patrick McGuire, (rumored to be of Irish ancestry,) whether he had ever read the book.  He replied indeed he had, and had I ever read page 347 in it.  I had read the whole book, but did not associate the gems of knowledge I had acquired with the page references, so I went back to it.  On that page was a story that Columbus on his great voyage had gotten mighty discouraged and was about to turn back, when a sailor in the crow's nest cried out that he had spotted land.  That sailor's name was Patrick McGuire!  And so, the irish discovered America twice!  First, St. Brendan, but that didn't take; then Patrick McGuire, although Columbus got all the credit.

If any of you want to verify this story, check the index, under McGuire or Columbus -- I no longer remember the page reference that Patrick gave me.  While you are at it, check out the Pale.
My father had pretty well worn me out with the glory of being Irish, but I found McManus entertaining, anyway.  Check it out.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
Date: Thursday, December 30, 2010 5:02 pm
Subject: "beyond the pale"

> Does the OED need a quotation for "beyond the
> pale" that specifically connotes the Russian Pale
> of Settlement?  The meaning there is "outside or
> beyond the bounds (of)", not "outside the limits
> of acceptable behaviour; unacceptable or
> improper".  The only quotation (August 2010)
> associated with the Jews is "1974    A. Goddard
> Vienna Pursuit ii. 60   The Jews were shown to be
> beyond the paleĀ—untermenschen who had murdered
> Christ.", which unfortunately does have the negative connotation.
> There are 13,600 raw GBooks hits for "beyond the
> pale" + Jews, going back to perhaps the 1870s in
> the context of the Russian pale.
>       Perhaps this, from 1884: _The Jewish
> question in Russia_, Pavel Pavlovich Demidov
> (principe Di San Donato): "Lastly, frequently
> expelled and driven from country to country and
> treated as being beyond the pale of the law, the
> Jews found that money served them as the only
> means of salvation and enabled them to purchase their right to
> existence. ...")
>       Or this, from 1871:  _HISTORY OF THE WOROD
> EVERT A. DUYCKINCK: "In 1850 an equally
> oppressive ukase forbade altogether the practice
> prevalent among Jewish women in Russia of cutting
> ... of the Inquisition over them should cease,
> and their position beyond the pale of civil society otherwise amended.
> ..."
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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