"beyond the pale"

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 3 02:41:10 UTC 2011

I had to scratch my head a bit to figure out what Joel meant, although,
once you connect the dots, it makes perfect sense. The OED has "beyond
the pale" only back to 1720, so the other dates are just for pale 5.a.
and 5.b. and 4.a.--"beyond the pale" is pale 5.c. and the three
identifiable geographic "pales" are 4.b-d. But Joel is absolutely
correct that "pale" refers to a number of artificial boundaries, not
just the one in Ireland or the one in Ukraine, plus it has a more
generic meaning.

But I mentioned it earlier and Joel made a reference to the same note on

> The theory that the origin of the phrase relates to any of several
> specific regions, such as the area of Ireland formerly called the Pale
> (see sense 4b) or the Pale of Settlement in Russia (see sense 4c), is
> _not_supported_by_the_early_historical_evidence_ and is likely to be a
> later rationalization.

Why can't we just assume that "beyond the pale" means almost literally
what it says? That something is "outside the fence" or beyond the boundary?


On 1/2/2011 6:47 PM, George Thompson wrote:
>> Check it out in the OED.
>> Joel
> I did check it out in the OED, which claimed to have never heard of the expression.
> I see that putting words into quotes gets it terribly confused.
> George A. Thompson
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Joel S. Berson"<Berson at ATT.NET>
> Date: Sunday, January 2, 2011 1:26 pm
> Subject: Re: "beyond the pale"
>> At 1/2/2011 11:51 AM, George Thompson wrote:
>>> 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.
>> You are incorrect in that "beyond the pale"
>> *also* refers to being outside the Russian Pale
>> of Settlement, from probably the late 19th
>> century on.  Google "Pale of Settlement" (quoted)
>> + "Jews" and see the many uses.  This sense is absent from the OED.
>> It also refers to "The territory of Calais in
>> northern France when under English jurisdiction
>> (1347–1558)", and in fact this use in English
>> appears c1453, antedating by 100 years the use
>> with reference to Ireland (a1549), which of course is before the 17th
>> century.
>> Check it out in the OED.
>> Joel

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