baling » bailing
Spotted in the wild:
- If bandages and bailing wire make life a little better, that’s fine. (Theology Today, Oct. 1970)
- “It was all spit and bailing wire. I should say spit and telephone wire,'’ says Bill Hayward ‘51, a KOCN pioneer as a graduate student. (Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Spring 2001)
- He “draws” his shadows from old heavy-duty bailing wire used primarily for binding large steel beams before being loaded onto ships. (Rensselaer Magazine, Winter 2003)
Analyzed or reported by:
- A. Murie (sagehen) on the American Dialect Society listserv, 18 Jun 2005 (link)
These days, _ba(i)ling wire_ is often used metaphorically to describe how a jury-rigged solution is held together. As the original use of the wire for making bales has faded from general memory, so has the original spelling — Googlehits for _baling wire_ are now rivaled by those for _bailing wire_ (about 35K to 20K).
Commenter Sally Cassil notes that the verbs _bale_ and _bail_ are frequently confused:
I have recently seen several references to pilots “baling out” of airplanes, or people having to “bale” water out of a leaking boat. As far as I know, “bale” as a noun refers to a large “package’ of hay, and, as a verb, to the process of getting the hay into such packages. One “bails” out of a plane if it’s crashing, and also bails water from a flooded boat.