The gall of it all

Hunkpapa warrior Chief Gall, c. 1880s

Hunkpapa warrior Chief Gall, c. 1880s

We often use the word “gall” in phrases such as “I can’t believe she has the gall to…” or “that really galls me.”  But what exactly does “gall” mean?

In its first sense, gall is a synonym for “bile.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, however, these days “gall” applies only to animals.  Either way, gall (or bile) is a bitter-tasting, yellowish substance that aids in the digestion of fat. Because of its taste, gall can also be used to refer to anything that is bitter or severe.

The word gall comes from Old English gealla (meaning bile), a cognate of Greek kholē.  It may also come from Old English geolo (yellow), a possible reference to bile’s color. The two roots may, in fact, be related.

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The “Cleveland Massacre”: how John D. Rockefeller created a monopoly and Ida Tarbell helped bust it

Ida in fur coat around 1925

 

John D. Rockeller, the founder of the Standard Oil Company, was one of the most powerful men of the Gilded Age.* Yet he was no match for journalist Ida Tarbell, the “muckraker“** who discovered and revealed Standard Oil’s unethical business practices.

The last 30 years of the 19th century in the United States (the “Gilded Age”) saw a huge growth of industry and wealth. But that growth was fueled by economic and political corruption.  No one represented both the highs and the lows of the Gilded Age better than Rockefeller and Standard Oil.  And not even Rockefeller could predict that his worse nemesis would turn out to be not his competitors, but a woman — and one born in a log home .

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