Posted by: Jack Henry | May 5, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Wayside or Waist Side

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Dear Editrix,

I was reading a social media post by a #hustle kind of person who was talking about staying productive during the quarantine. He asked, “What passions fall by the waist side while you are busy working your full-time job?” I had always heard it as fall by the wayside. Perhaps he was being cheeky, waist side—eating our lost passions. I googled it and found fall by the waist side, waste side, and wayside. What is correct and why the confusion?


I’ve fallen (by the wayside) and I can’t get up

Dear Fallen,

Oh boy. Well, you’ve certainly given him a good excuse—that maybe he was being humorous and clever with waist side. But as many people and dictionaries and websites will tell you, the phrase by the wayside is the correct one. Here’s a brief article from one of our favorite folks, Grammar Girl.

Have you ever missed a deadline or failed a test?

You may have planned to prepare, but then something happened, and those plans fell by the wayside.

What is the wayside, anyway? And does it hurt if you fall by it?

Let’s find out. We’ll start with the word way.

A way is a road or a path. As in highway, byway, or the phrase going my way? You’ve probably said that before.

The wayside, therefore, is the land on either side of the way. What we might call the roadside.

The term wayside can first be found in the Middle English poem Morte Arthure. This poem was written in the 1400s by an unknown author. It tells part of the legend of King Arthur. It’s sometimes called the Alliterative Morte Arthure, because it uses so much alliteration—many words that start with the same sound.

At one point in the story, Arthur’s knights are traveling through France when they find themselves ambushed. They’re attacked, the poet writes, by “fifty thousandez of folke of ferse men of armez” who appear on the “waye sydes” of a “bechen wode.”

In other words, fifty thousand armed men sneak through a beech wood forest, appear on the side of the road, and attack.

These days, we often hear wayside used in the phrase to fall by the wayside.

That means that to forget about something or neglect it.

For example, you might say your grass died because your watering fell by the wayside. Or that your plans to save money fell by the wayside when you saw that sweet pair of Jordans.

I hope that helps, Fallen. Most of the things I saw about “the waist side” were just blogs about people making that error in speech. While they do sound similar, the waist side is incorrect.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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