Bail or Bale?

Bail or Bale?

For some years now there’s been a meme, apparently originated by Martin Fowler, going round in the Agile world:

“Change your organisation, or change your organisation.”

Meaning, bring about some positive change within the organisation with which you’re involved, or move along to another organisation where the chances of effecting some positive change – and being happier – might prove higher.

I’ve seen a number of folks talk about “bailing” from their present organisation, and wonder if the choice of “bail” or “bale” might not tell us something about their subconscious perspective on their situation?

Of course, the word “bail” is most widespread due to the pernicious effects of creeping Americanisation of the beautiful British English language, but also consider the roots of the two words:

Bail – As in “bail out from prison” – do folks see their present organisation, subconsciously at least, as a prison?

Bale – As in “bale out from an aircraft” – do folks see their present organisation as a blazing aircraft about to crash and burn?

Would you be willing to share your thought on which term would you most likely use? And what that might reveal about your take on your situation?

“In the end nobody is more responsible for your career than yourself, and there is never a good time to be unhappy with your job.”

~ Martin Fowler

– Bob

Further Reading

Bail Out/Bale Out ~ Entry at

  1. Bob,

    There is another relevant usage of the word – bailing out a sinking boat.



  2. Hmmm, I usually quit an organisation when I can’t change it thus making me feel somewhat imprisoned. And I usually want to change an organisation because I view it as an airplane on fire (or maybe headed that way at least).

  3. Subconsciously, I may think both thoughts about my current organization. But, more often than a prison, I think of my org as a crashing airplane. Of course, there are moments when the 777 is flying albeit awkwardly.

    As for the first part of the post, does Fowler or anyone have any insight into which “change” is better? Is there any thought by him as to when you should choose one over the other?

    Final question, would you be willing to share which bail you would use about your current organization?

  4. There are a few other definitions that apply as well – David mentioned “bail” as “bailing out a boat”. Does your org seem to attempt counteractions, rather than repairs?

    Here in the states, at least, “bale” can also mean a large collection of (usually) related things, such as “bale of hay”. If course, it can also mean a large collection akin to a big ball of mud.

    Hmm. Bail, bail, bale, or bale? Looks they are all generally critical of the organiz(s)ation

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