What is the meaning and origin of "beyond the pale"?
(N. Nagarajan, Vellore)
When someone behaves in an unacceptable or an uncivilised manner, you can say that his behaviour was "beyond the pale". The idiom can also be used to refer to people's actions.
*Rajagopal's behaviour at the meeting was beyond the pale.
*Sushmita is never invited to parties because her behaviour is considered beyond the pale.
The word "pale" in the idiom has nothing to do with colour. The word in this case comes from the Latin "palus", meaning, "stake". In the old days "stakes" or wooden poles were used to mark one's territory. Everything that was within the "pale" or the wooden fence belonged to you, and the land that was outside it, belonged to someone else. The expression "beyond the pale" began to be used in the 14th century when parts of Ireland came under the English rule. Territories that were "within the pale" belonged to the English; those that were outside it, belonged to the Irish. The English, as you may expect, didn't have a very good opinion of their neighbours. They thought that the Irish were crude; people who didn't know how to behave in a civilised manner. So when someone says your behaviour is beyond the pale, what he means is that you are behaving like an Irishman!
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