hale » hail

Chiefly in:   hailed into court, hailed before the court

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • “Albania was challenging Great Britain’s competence to hail it before the International Court of Justice” (Collier's Year Book, 1949)
  • “Foreign banks are frequently hailed into court in New York. Dagher et al. v. Saudi Refining 00, plus over $2 million in interest plus attorneys’ fees” (link)

The first example is from the MWDEU entry for “hail, hale”. The MWDEU editors express surprise that they had only two examples of “hail” for “hale”.

The verb “hale” ‘compel to go’ is rare and mostly confined to contexts involving courts or similar deliberative bodies. The verb “hail” ‘call’, on the other hand, is much more common, and it makes sense in the court context, so you’d expect reanalysis. I’m actually a bit surprised that “hail” seems not to have prevailed over “hale”: on 29 March 2005, raw Google web hits were ca. 7,260 for “haled into court” vs. 758 for “hailed into court”.

My thanks to Victor Steinbok, who reminded me of this case in e-mail on 29 March 2005.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/03/29 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Bill Giles , 2006/09/02 at 6:08 pm

    Surely the expression is “hauled into court”. Vis: theinquirer.net/?article=…

  2. 2

    Commentary by Arnold Zwicky , 2006/09/03 at 11:41 pm

    To Bill Giles: yes, we can now say “haul”, but “hale” is the original. The OED has early cites for “hale” (as well as more recent ones), and notes: “now superseded in ordinary speech by HAUL”. “Hale into court” is an (old) idiom; “haul into court” is, still, a transparent expression. “Hail into court” is surely a reinterpretation of the homophonous (and no longer transparent) “hale into court”.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.