Monday 10 September 2007

Phrase of the Day 143: 'beyond the pale'

"Beyond the pale"

definition: Socially unacceptable, outside agreed standards of decency.

example: "Bush's handling of the Iraq invasion was beyond the pale for some of the American population."

origin: The "pale" derives from Latin "palus", meaning a pole or stake. Fences (walls) are built to define boundaries. To be "beyond the pale" implies that one is outside of defined boundaries. In the days when walled cities were common in Europe people who behaved unacceptably were sometimes exiled or banished from the community and sent to live outside the walls.

The "pale" was a fence around the English controlled part of Ireland around Dublin. Those who lived beyond the pale were outside English jurisdiction and were thought to be uncivilized.

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