Wayside and Waste Side

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One of the many meanings of the English noun way is, “a thoroughfare used or designed for traveling or transportation from place to place.”

Roman legions travelled along the Appian Way.

Shakespeare’s Autolycus sang,

Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way,
And merrily hent the stile-a:
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a. —The Winter’s Tale, IV.3.

Even now we drive along highways and perhaps hike along byways. The land that runs along these “ways” is called the wayside.

The expression “to fall by the wayside” probably came into English from the parable of the sower:

A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. –Luke 8:5, KJV.

The idea is that anyone or anything that “falls by the wayside” has failed to accomplish its purpose.

Nowadays, speakers who don’t seem to know the word wayside talk about “falling by the waste side.” Like those who still say wayside, they are referring to the area along a road or highway, but–doubtless because of all the litter that accumulates there–the eggcorn “waste side” makes sense to them. The expression has made its appearance in pop lyrics:

When you got big dreams, keep your eyes on the prize
Don’t fall to the waste side, reach for the sky

Don’t bother wasting my time, you’re falling down by the
waste side.
Falling down by the waste side

It’s not just songwriters who are mixed up:

Senator [Royce] West added that, “It was not his intent or those members who have coauthored SB 1419 and those who lent their efforts to the creation of this bill, to attempt to maintain or increase the pool of eligible applicants for admissions, admit them, and then have them fall by the waste side.” –From the Office of State Senator Royce West, District 23 (Texas).

Note: Carpenters aptly talk about the “waste side” of a saw blade. It’s the side away from a section of wood being cut.

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6 thoughts on “Wayside and Waste Side”

  1. That expression is absolutely incredible: “falling by the waste side.”

    It belongs in the same WRETCHED category as “I could care less” and “I seen him do it” and the confusion between “you’re” and “your”.

  2. “Falling by the waste side” reminds me of a joke that I heard back in the 1960s:
    An elementary school teacher told one of her pupils to recite three sentences using the word “beans”. He progressed:
    1. My mother cooks beans.
    2. My family eats beans.
    3. We are all human beans.

  3. Actually, this is in the category of eggcorns, as you say, Maeve. Typical of people writing things wrong because they hear them wrong, and don’t bother to check their sayings even when they plainly don’t make any sense (e.g., for all intensive purposes, it’s a doggy dog world, or could care less). So we get anchors away, toe the line, Penny Annie, wolves in cheap (or chief’s) clothing, you have another thing coming, card sharks, etc. If people read more there would surely be less of this. Unless, of course, the same people were doing the writing. Once I even got a written referrence to Valin Times Day. (FYI, For those who don’t want to miss their valins, those times are around Feb. 14th.)

  4. This reminded of the misunderstanding of the expression “moot point”, very often pronounced, and spelled, as “mute point”. Interestingly, the occasions I remember most clearly when this mistake arose were business meetings!

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