This month and last the execrable weather and my necessary commitments have meant that I have hardly visited my boat, Poppy, except to bail her out. Today early, just before the morning tide crept in, I once again carried my plastic bucket along a line of curlew tracks the short distance to my dried out mooring and took out enough water to float a stranded whale.
I mused to myself the while, being a dabbler in wordsmithery, whether the two words 'pail' and 'bail' were related. It seemed to me, bailing with my pail, that they had to be.
'Bail' is one of those words that can be spelled in two ways, 'bail' and 'bale', 'bail' being the older form and therefore, perhaps, to be preferred. Bs and Ps are sometimes confused and I was confident that the two words must be variant forms from the same stock but, once back with my books, I was to be disabused.
According to Eric Partridge's Origins , 'bail' comes from the French word 'baille' meaning a bucket whereas 'pail' has to do with pegs and pegging and derives from an Old English word paegel meaning a wine measure.
Well, there you are now!
A neighbour whom I bored with my false etymological reflections this morning parted from me with the words: "Carry on pailing!"
The which no doubt I must.