While in Grants Pass a week ago, we wandered through bookstores. I found one book that tells the origins of words and phrases. It was used, hardback, three dollars.
I love books like this and have a small, growing collection. If I decided to collect one type of anything, it would probably be books about words and phrases.
Honestly, there are a number of items that cry to me to be collected, including computers, typewriters, guitars, books in general and cars, but I'm not really a collecting personality. First, collecting, from my understanding, requires space. Space requires cleaning. I don't want to add to my cleaning and housekeeping burden. Then, collecting generally requires spending money. My wife and I have issues with spending money. We don't mind spending if we think it's a worthy issue, a useful appliance, or a required change, but to spend it to store things so we can admire it? Come on. Perhaps if I'm wealthy enough to create a public museum where I can let the public in to share the collection and educate them about it....
As I was flipping through my new purchase at random last night, I discovered 'beyond the pale'. That's one of many phrases I've wondered about over the years. I started wondering about it long before the Internet and never thought of applying an Internet search to that particular phrase.
No one has used 'beyond the pale' in my presence in the last few months, perhaps even years. I used to ask, what does that mean. They would tell me, that means whatever we were talking about wasn't acceptable. Yes, but what is the pale? How does the pale define what is and isn't acceptable?
At long last, I learned my answer. Beyond the pale comes from Ireland and refers to English domination in Ireland, but only in cities. The English were paler than the Irish so to be beyond the pale meant to be beyond England's control, outside the controlled space.
It was like the Allies' Green Zone in Iraq.
Except looking up beyond the pale on the web at last, I found a different origin. This source (phrases.uk.org) says that Catherine the Great created the Pale of Settlement, a place for Jews to live in segregation, restricting interaction with non-Jewish Russians. Some Jews were allowed to live outside the Pale of Settlement, or 'beyond the pale'. Other countries followed suit, they tell us, including Ireland and France, not always for Jews, but wherever politics, hatred, and intolerance required one people to control where another lived.
So the pale was either a gated community, gated to keep its inhabitants in, which I think we might call a prison in this era. It was unacceptable for those designated people to be beyond the pale, in areas where they weren't wanted. Now it's used to designate behavior, actions or discussions that aren't acceptable.
More history of the world through a common phrase. My jewel is a little tarnished, as it didn't give the full meaning and history but it's still a good collecting, reminding me of the many phrases used that I don't understand.
I'll just ensure I vet its explanations.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com