Words: gally, v.

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
THE NOVELIST Patrick McGrath, editing Moby Dick in a TriBeCa bistro, looked up and read aloud about "that strange perplexity of inert irresolution, which, when the fishermen perceive it in the whale, they say he is gallied".

As Melville notes of gally, or gallow, "when the polite landsman first hears it from the gaunt Nantucketer, he is apt to set it down as one of the whaleman's self-derived savageries. Much the same is it with many other sinewy Saxonisms of this sort . . ."

McGrath moots a link with gallows: in fact, one is from the Old English for alarm, the other means pole. Thomas Hardy refers to a gally-crow (to see off birds). In America, gallows are also braces - and that sonorous footnote prompts one to read the novel itself.

Comments