in regard to the montana incident, I saw a tweet that said something like "he really wailed on that guy" and I thought no, it's WALED and no definitions meaning "beat up" or "walloped" appeared for either spelling... then I checked WHALED and that wasn't it either.
do you know which one it is?
In my trusty Webster's 2nd, "whale" can mean to thrash, and it gives "wale" as another spelling -- maybe because when you lash someone with a whip, you make stripes on them that look like wide wale corduroy. To me, saying "he really whaled/waled on that guy" can also be just extremely screaming at someone, doesn't have to be physical. I think it might be cognate with welt, too.