Good Reading : June 2010
8 goodreading ı JUNE 2010 Beyond the pale The pale here refers to a designated area within a border, either real or theoretical, and under a different jurisdiction from the adjacent territory. The English Pale referred to the Calais area of France administered by England, and the Irish Pale was that section of Ireland under English control. Beyond the Pale simply meant past the border. By the 17th century the image of a pale -- an enclosure -- had acquired a metaphorical meaning, often used by Christians refer ring to a defined and safe area of belief. Archbishop Bramwell said in 1654: 'We acknowledge that there is no salvation to be expected ordinarily without the pale of the Church.' Notwithstanding the limits placed on it by church adherents -- only they themselves were within the pale -- gradually the expression came to include wider areas of acceptable behaviour and decency. Beyond the pale implied a general lack of propriety and possibly decency.With all due respect to Archbishop Bramwell, it was Charles Dickens who nailed the ter m into the moder n vernacular in Pickwick Papers (1837). Mr Pott tells Slurk: I consider you a viper. I look upon you, sir, as a man who has placed himself beyond the pale of society, by his most audacious, disgraceful, and abominable public conduct. Tweedledum and Tweedledee In London during the 1700s, a hot topic of conversation concerned the varying quality of new offerings from classical musicians. One disputed point was whether Handel's music was the equal of, or superior to, that of the Italian musician Bononcini. John Byrom, who invented shorthand, also invented comic names for those two composers when he wrote a satirical poem (c.1725) comparing them. It ended with the lines: Strange that such high dispute should be,Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Over 140 years later, Lewis Carroll took up the names and allocated them to two fat brothers Alice met through the looking glass. Shakespeare by Bernard Levin If you cannot understand my argument, and declare 'It's Greek to me', you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sor row than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from greeneyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise -- why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that tr uth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then -- to give the devil his due -- if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incar nate, a stony-hearted villain, bloodyminded or a blinking idiot, then -- by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! For goodness' sake! what the dickens! but menobuts--itisallonetome,for you are quoting Shakespeare. Reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd London on behalf of the Estate of Bernard Levin. Copyright © Ber nard Levin 1983. Who Said That First? The curious origins of common words and phrases by Max Cryer is published by Exisle, r rp $29.99. who said that first? In this extract from Who said that first? by MAX CRYER we learn where ‘beyond the pale’ and ‘tweedledee’ come from, but also, thanks to a poem by Bernard Levin, just how much of our idiom comes from Shakespeare. BOOKBITE 1 If you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare.