phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at


Posted by ESC on September 23, 2001

In Reply to: Bale out posted by Gary Martin on September 23, 2001

: : A correction: Meaning given here is "To remove water from a boat. In military parlance this also means to escape from a damaged plane or other vehicle."

: : That's the wrong "bale" for the phrase. It's "bail" when talking about bailing out water, or escaping a damaged plane or vehichle. A "bale" is a bundle of goods. To "bale" is to bundle, to make up a bale.

: Glad that you like the site.

: I can't completely agree with you about bale/bail. There are at least three meanings of bale/bail out:

: - To remove water from a boat. Here I think you are right; the bucket used is a 'bail', so bail out is the correct spelling. Bale out is the usual but, as the OED says, "less correct" form that is commonly used in the UK.

: - To jump out of an aircraft. Here I'm happy with 'bale out', the allusion being to throwing out a bundle or bale rather than decanting water. Again, the OED accepts the alternative of 'bail out', although is a bit snooty about it - "rare form, origin US".

: - To pay to have someone released from bail. Naturally, this is 'bail out'.

: : Nice site you have here, and very useful!

: : Sharon Hoskinson

The World Book Dictionary (Chicago, 1991) says: "bail - to throw (water) out of a boat, with a pail, a dipper, or any other container...Also, especially British, bale." So, it just another one of those little ways we do things differently.

Another thing I've noticed, we in the U.S. do quotes and a quote within a quote the opposite way from the British. Don't we? "I heard the boy say, 'I'm going to the movies.'"

© 1997 – 2024 All rights reserved.