There’s plenty of doom and gloom at the moment in rural Ireland with growing instead offload their valuable Dublin real estate and relocate to the midlands.

What does “beyond the pale” really mean?

Among other definitions, Beyond the pale means “outside the boundaries”. Normally, of course, the “boundaries” are metaphors for human activities, rather than referring to a physically bounded location.

When the Normans invaded Ireland in the twelfth century, they were not as successful as they hoped: the English possessions were gradually reduced to an area around Dublin. This was originally protected by a palisade (or Pale), and (in English eyes at least) Ireland was divided into the civilised part within the Pale and the barbarian part “Beyond the Pale“, which became a common phrase for the Elizabethans, if not earlier.

If you are not aware of this: “Beyond the Pale” literally refers to a specific part of Ireland (as seen by the English colonialists). Tim explains why the English used that phrase: Reg explains the roots. (It’s reminiscent of the phrase in Australia, “back of Burke.”)

The Phrase Finder adds that the first printed reference of the phrase “beyond the pale” (rather than just the word pale in its figurative sense) comes “from 1657 in John Harington’s lyric poem The History of Polindor and Flostella.”