“Beyond the pale” – how did it come into being?


This is a less seldom used phrase, I myself didn’t know how to use it before. The story goes as follows:

Beyond the pale”

This phrase probably has come from the days of motte and bailey castles in Norman times. The two ditches round the mound (motte) were fenced in with a wooden paling fence. Any people misbehaving were put beyond the paling fence, i.e. outside the bounds of the castle and thus outside any protection.

This may be where another saying comes from. There were often prisoners kept in the wooden tower on the top of the mound and if these prisoners behaved themselves they were sometimes allowed out on the bailey (the area between the two circular ditches) – thus being let out on bail.

At least I now know how ‘let out on bail’ was derived. Everythime I read phrases from this book it brings a smile to my face. Hope it does the same to you.

This is taken from “By Hook or by Crook’ written by Tony Wootton and Gwen Zanzottera.

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