Learn More - Click Here!

Thread Options
#139996 - 12/16/03 05:49 PM Tilting at windmills and other adages
GreatBlue Offline
Diamond Poster
GreatBlue
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,362
Colorado
Ken from Pegasus used the phrase tilting at windmills in another post today and it got me thinking. There are some catch phrases that I have never understood. I kind of get what it means in context, but Ive never known what it literally means or how it came into usage. Tilting at windmills is one of those. Another is Beyond the pale.

Does anyone know what either of those mean? Anyone have any others they dont really get?
_________________________
Opinions are mine and not necessarily my employer's.

Return to Top
Chat! - BOL Watercooler
#139997 - 12/16/03 05:51 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Skittles Offline
10K Club
Skittles
Joined: Sep 2002
Posts: 13,963
TN
Although I'm only guessing, I would guess that 'tilting at windmills' has something to do with Don Quixote. As for the other, I have no idea and I've never heard that one.
_________________________
My Opinions Only

Return to Top
#139998 - 12/16/03 05:58 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Sinatra Fan Offline
Power Poster
Sinatra Fan
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 5,568
New Jersey
Quote:

Although I'm only guessing, I would guess that 'tilting at windmills' has something to do with Don Quixote. As for the other, I have no idea and I've never heard that one.




Absolutely correct. Don Quixote attacked the windmills, thinking they were giants. One of the definitions of "tilt" is to run or thrust with a lance in jousting. And there is no truth to the rumor that Sancho Panza, the Don's trusty companion, upon watching his master have at the windmills, said, "Surely you joust."
_________________________
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker

Return to Top
#139999 - 12/16/03 06:00 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Sinatra Fan Offline
Power Poster
Sinatra Fan
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 5,568
New Jersey
"Beyond the pale" refers to conduct outside the bounds of acceptable behavior. "The Pale" was the part of Russia to which Jews were confined, at least those who were not killed in a pogrom.
_________________________
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker

Return to Top
#140000 - 12/16/03 06:00 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
DeeQ Offline
10K Club
DeeQ
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 40,760
Turnpike Exit 10
BEYOND THE PALE (via a Google search)

Pail vs. pale:

Thats a common misspelling these days because the word that really belongs in the expression has gone out of use except in this one case. The expression is properly beyond the pale. That word pale has nothing to do with the adjective for something light in colour except that both come from Latin roots. The one referring to colour is from the Latin verb pallere, to be pale, whilst our one is from palus, a stake.

A pale is an old name for a pointed stake driven into the ground to form part of a fence andby obvious extensionto a barrier made of such stakes, a fence (our modern word paling is from the same source, as are pole and impale). This meaning has been around in English since the fourteenth century. By 1400 it had taken on various figurative senses, such as a defence, a safeguard, a barrier, an enclosure, or a limit beyond which it was not permissible to go.

In particular, it was used to describe various defended enclosures of territory inside other countries. For example, the English pale in France in the fourteenth century was the territory of Calais, the last English possession in that country. The best-known modern example is the Russian Pale, between 1791 up to the Revolution in 1917, which were specified provinces and districts within which Russian Jews were required to live. Another famous one is the Pale in Ireland, that part of the country over which England had direct jurisdictionit varied from time to time, but was an area of several counties centred on Dublin. The first mention of the Irish Pale is in a document of 14467. Though there was an attempt later in the century to enclose the Pale by a bank and ditch (which was never completed), there never was a literal fence around it.

The expression beyond the pale, meaning outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour, came much later. The idea behind it was that civilisation stopped at the boundary of the pale and beyond lay those who were not under civilised control and whose behaviour therefore was not that of gentlemen. A classic example appears in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, dated 1837: 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. The earliest example Ive found is from Sir Walter Scott in 1819.

It may be older than this, but it surely doesnt date back to the period of the Irish Pale, or anywhere near. It is often said that it does come directly from that political enclosure, but the three-century gap renders that very doubtful indeed. The idea behind it is definitely the same, though.
Last edited by Maria KFSB; 12/16/03 06:01 PM.
_________________________
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. - Mark Twain

Return to Top
#140001 - 12/16/03 06:02 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Princess Romeo Offline

Power Poster
Princess Romeo
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 8,272
Where the heart is
Quote:

And there is no truth to the rumor that Sancho Panza, the Don's trusty companion, upon watching his master have at the windmills, said, "Surely you joust."




Shoot! Does that mean that Don Quixote did not reply "No, and stop calling me Shirley."?
_________________________
CRCM,CAMS
Regulations are a poor substitute for ethics.
Just sayin'

Return to Top
#140002 - 12/16/03 06:06 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Sinatra Fan Offline
Power Poster
Sinatra Fan
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 5,568
New Jersey
Quote:

Quote:

And there is no truth to the rumor that Sancho Panza, the Don's trusty companion, upon watching his master have at the windmills, said, "Surely you joust."




Shoot! Does that mean that Don Quixote did not reply "No, and stop calling me Shirley."?




_________________________
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker

Return to Top
#140003 - 12/16/03 06:09 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Sinatra Fan Offline
Power Poster
Sinatra Fan
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 5,568
New Jersey
As long as we're on the subject of windmills:

Windmills have four panels, or sheets, which catch the wind. When one of the sheets falls off, the windmill tilts in a crazy and irregular manner. Hence the expression "three sheets to the wind" for a drunken person's unstable gait.
_________________________
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker

Return to Top
#140004 - 12/16/03 06:14 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
DeeQ Offline
10K Club
DeeQ
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 40,760
Turnpike Exit 10
Quote:

As long as we're on the subject of windmills:

Windmills have four panels, or sheets, which catch the wind. When one of the sheets falls off, the windmill tilts in a crazy and irregular manner. Hence the expression "three sheets to the wind" for a drunken person's unstable gait.




Remind me on Friday of that one, Steve!
_________________________
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. - Mark Twain

Return to Top
#140005 - 12/16/03 06:30 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
GreatBlue Offline
Diamond Poster
GreatBlue
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,362
Colorado
Cool! Thanks Maria and Steve. I had an idea that "beyond the pale" meant outside acceptable behavior, and I knew it had something to do with the treatment of Jews in Russia, but now that I know a "pale" is a stake that could be driven into the ground, it all makes perfect sense!

Sometimes BOL is like having your own personal encyclopedia!
_________________________
Opinions are mine and not necessarily my employer's.

Return to Top
#140006 - 12/16/03 06:40 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Skittles Offline
10K Club
Skittles
Joined: Sep 2002
Posts: 13,963
TN
Guess if we had been thinking - 'impaled'. Makes sense, doesn't it?
_________________________
My Opinions Only

Return to Top
#140007 - 12/16/03 07:06 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Inquisitor / Sommelier Omega Offline
Diamond Poster
Inquisitor / Sommelier Omega
Joined: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,357
A Grant Wood painting.
"It is better to remain silent and be thought dumb than to speak and remove all doubt". Lincoln? Right?
_________________________
The opinions expressed are what you can expect for the price paid.

Return to Top
#140008 - 12/16/03 07:12 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Jokerman Offline
10K Club
Joined: Nov 2003
Posts: 12,846
Quote:

"It is better to remain silent and be thought dumb than to speak and remove all doubt". Lincoln? Right?




Twain.

Return to Top
#140009 - 12/16/03 07:25 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Inquisitor / Sommelier Omega Offline
Diamond Poster
Inquisitor / Sommelier Omega
Joined: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,357
A Grant Wood painting.
Dang! I hate being wrong!

"Worrying is like a rocking chair-you rock and rock and get no where." - My father's great grandmother.
Not an adage but at least I know who said it. (She may have heard it somewhere.)
_________________________
The opinions expressed are what you can expect for the price paid.

Return to Top
#140010 - 12/16/03 07:59 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Gotwood Offline
Platinum Poster
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 715
I found this definition of three sheets to the winds on Google. - "It means drunk. Three sheets to (or in) the wind is a nautical expression. If three sheets - which are the ropes holding the sails rather than the sails themselves - are loose and blowing about then the boat will lurch about like a drunken sailor. I don't know where it originated but I expect it was from the British Navy. Dickens uses it in Dombey and Son."

Return to Top
#140011 - 12/16/03 08:08 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Princess Romeo Offline

Power Poster
Princess Romeo
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 8,272
Where the heart is
So how 'bout the expression "Pushing the envelope" used when someone gets very near or crosses certain accepted boundaries?
_________________________
CRCM,CAMS
Regulations are a poor substitute for ethics.
Just sayin'

Return to Top
#140012 - 12/16/03 08:16 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
deppfan Offline
Power Poster
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 5,184
All over the map.
Quote:

So how 'bout the expression "Pushing the envelope" used when someone gets very near or crosses certain accepted boundaries?



or nose to the grindstone?
_________________________
On the road again.....I just can't wait to get on the road again.

Return to Top
#140013 - 12/16/03 08:29 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
DeeQ Offline
10K Club
DeeQ
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 40,760
Turnpike Exit 10
Pushing the envelope: expression

meaning:
to strech the boundaries of something
to go beyond the known limits of safe performance
a set of performance limits that may not be safely exceeded
to test the limits of what is permissible in a given situation

origin:

This expression comes out of the US Air Force test pilot program of the late 1940's onwards. The "envelope" was the technical limits of the high performance airplanes that test pilots flew, ie., the designers technical specifications. So, to "push the envelope" was to go beyond these specifications to see just exactly what these aircraft would do. I'll take a wild guess and say that they mostly crashed.

The expression was popularised by Tom Wolfe in his book "The right stuff" (1979) and then the movie "Top Gun." Because the section of Wolfe's book in which it first appears focusses heavily on Chuck Yeager's exploits, it is tempting to ascribe the coinage to him, but the phrase was just a general Air Force test pilot one.

The idea of of using the word "envelope" as a kind of enclosing boundary is not a new one. In 1899 Arnold Bennett wrote: "My desire is to depict the deeper beauty while abiding by the envelope of facts."

usage:

Modern technology is pushing the envelope of what can be done with a computer. Everyday there seems to be some new gadget out that lets us do something more or something better on our computers.


Excerpted from Taiwan Teacher ----Maria
_________________________
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. - Mark Twain

Return to Top
#140014 - 12/16/03 08:38 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Anonymous
Unregistered

My father told me that "getting down to brass tacks " refers to the old dry goods store when women did not buy ready-made dresses, but purchased fabric and made their own. Brass tacks were driven into the counter to measure off an exact yard of material. Thus the expression means to get the details right.
Also, "dead as a doornail" refers to the way doors were made with planks laid side by side and cross pieces nailed on to hold them together. The points that came through the opposite side were hammered down or"deadened".
There used to be a column in our Sunday paper called "Take Our Word for It". No longer there, but I sure found it interesting for things like this. Anybody still get that column?

Return to Top
#140015 - 12/16/03 09:05 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
WildTurkey Offline
Platinum Poster
WildTurkey
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 921
Down South, USA
Quote:

Cool! Thanks Maria and Steve. I had an idea that "beyond the pale" meant outside acceptable behavior, and I knew it had something to do with the treatment of Jews in Russia, ....



As we are talking about an English phrase, I have no doubt that the common usage of the phrase "beyond the pale" did originate in reference to the boundary of the English controlled part of Ireland (I see no contradiction with the Irish Pale being earlier than the origin of the phrase, though I would have if the phrase had originated earlier than the Irish Pale), and that is certainly the commonly accepted origin of the phrase in England. There may have been other "pales", but none that I'm aware would have given rise to a common phrase in English.
_________________________
This is my opinion; it is not legal advice, nor the view of my employer, and it may change tomorrow.

Return to Top
#140016 - 12/16/03 09:19 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
GreatBlue Offline
Diamond Poster
GreatBlue
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,362
Colorado
Quote:

Quote:

Cool! Thanks Maria and Steve. I had an idea that "beyond the pale" meant outside acceptable behavior, and I knew it had something to do with the treatment of Jews in Russia, ....



As we are talking about an English phrase, I have no doubt that the common usage of the phrase "beyond the pale" did originate in reference to the boundary of the English controlled part of Ireland (I see no contradiction with the Irish Pale being earlier than the origin of the phrase, though I would have if the phrase had originated earlier than the Irish Pale), and that is certainly the commonly accepted origin of the phrase in England. There may have been other "pales", but none that I'm aware would have given rise to a common phrase in English.




You're right. I'm sure the English phrase came long before the segregation of Jews in Russian cities. I've just seen it used in reference to that.
_________________________
Opinions are mine and not necessarily my employer's.

Return to Top
#140017 - 12/18/03 05:47 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Anonymous
Unregistered

My great grandma used to say "back it up potato row". Anyone got an origin for that?

Return to Top
#140018 - 12/18/03 06:19 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
WildTurkey Offline
Platinum Poster
WildTurkey
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 921
Down South, USA
Quote:

My great grandma used to say "back it up potato row". Anyone got an origin for that?



I have never heard that one before. Can you give us a context, or explain what she meant when she said that?
_________________________
This is my opinion; it is not legal advice, nor the view of my employer, and it may change tomorrow.

Return to Top
#140019 - 12/18/03 06:39 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
Anonymous
Unregistered

I don't remember her saying it, but my grandma and my mom both use the expression when someone is in the way.

Return to Top
#140020 - 12/18/03 10:17 PM Re: Tilting at windmills and other adages
WildTurkey Offline
Platinum Poster
WildTurkey
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 921
Down South, USA
Quote:

I don't remember her saying it, but my grandma and my mom both use the expression when someone is in the way.




Was your grandmother, or her ancestry, Irish?
_________________________
This is my opinion; it is not legal advice, nor the view of my employer, and it may change tomorrow.

Return to Top