Word of the day: sidehill

Some copy I was subbing yesterday kept making mention of a certain vehicle's performance on sidehills. Thinking 'sidehill' was a technical term, or at least a specific type of hill or slope, I was surprised to find that the Oxford English Dictionary just defines it as North American for 'hillside'.

We say 'hillside'; they say 'sidehill'. Let's call the whole thing off.

And now I'm off to have a wichsand.


(Incidentally, I'd love to hear from any North American readers as to whether they use 'sidehill', 'hillside', or both).

12 comments:

TootsNYC said...

I live in North America, and I've never heard "sidehill." It's in our dictionary, but I have never heard anyone say it, and I've never read it.

I'd have assumed a "sidehill" was a sort of "foothill," a little hill next to a bigger hill.

I'm pretty well read, and I've lived in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

Neil said...

Where I grew up there was a sort of natural bike track in the woods....one of the sides of this was a steep slope which was always called "sidehill" because of it's death-defying slope-iness

I used to bomb down it on my BMX...I'm well hard me

JD said...

Near where I grew up was 'World's End Hill', which I think sounds even more death-defying in its slope-iness. It was good for tobogganing as I recall.

I am also known to frequent The World's End pub in Camden where the only steep thing is the price of beer.

rpmason said...

I'm from the northern U.S. and have never heard the term. Sidehill isn't listed in the American Heritage dictionary but it is listed in Random House and a Webster's. That said, I did enjoy finding a Wikipedia article on the Sidehill Gouger.

JD said...

Had a comment on sidehill come into the blog from DeWitt via email. I hope he won't mind me posting it here for everyone else:

"Interestingly enough, I've never heard of 'sidehill', despite it supposedly being a 'North American' term. But of course, NA is BIG, and different words and terms are used in parts of the US and/or Canada (and let's not forget Mexico is part of NA, but I don't think that's where 'sidehill' is used, eh? :^). I'd still say 'hillside'. Makes me wonder where they DO say 'sidehill'."

mighty red pen said...

I live in Northeast US and I have never heard the term "sidehill" in fact I used to live in a neighborhood called Hillside. I was pretty surprised to hear "sidehill" categorized as a North American term.

Stuart said...

I live in the Pacific Northwest of the US and have also never heard of the term "sidehill." I expect if I tried to use it in speech, people would look at me funny and wonder what I was talking about.

JD said...

Well, that's five people out of five from 'North America' who have never heard the term sidehill. Oh, and one Brit who knew of a slope called 'Sidehill'.

Far be it from me to question the OED, but this does seem strange...

And yes, I had fun reading about the Sidehill Gouger too!

The Ridger, FCD said...

Here's another American who's never heard of "sidehill" - raised in the South, lived in California, now in Maryland (almost the South...)

Jesse Sheidlower said...

I'm a New Yorker born and bred, and I've never heard of it either, but the Dictionary of American Regional English has, and it gives an extensive entry for this, with the main sense having quotations from 1674 (antedating OED, though copied from the DAE in this case) through 2000. And it gives six separate attributive senses, one (in combinations such as "sidehill badger" or "sidehill critter" denoting '[a]n imaginary creature alleged to frequent hillsides, usu described as having the legs on one side shorter than those on the other') with very extensive evidence from 1849 onwards.

Granted, it's got a label of "chiefly Northern, esp. North East", and most of the recent quotes are from dialect surveys and the like, rather than from running text. But still, the fact that a word is unfamiliar to people doesn't mean it isn't real. The OED entry strikes me as being accurate for when it was written, though now certainly in need of updating.

JD said...

Thanks Jesse, that really helps to clear things up.

The only question in my mind now is how the word 'sidehill' came to be appear in some copy written for our magazine. The writer in question is on holiday at the moment, but I'll be sure to ask him when he gets back.

Dylan said...

As the person who wrote the piece I will explain the reason I kept the word sidehill in the copy.
The copy is about the Sno-cat, which is a vehicle designed to travel through/over thick snow. I believe the bit in the copy refers to its 'sidehill performance', meaning that when stood sideways on a hill it still has excellent traction and steering.
It was simply easier then writing about it 'standing sideways on a hill'.
But as you have proven I shouldn't try and cut corners.

And JD - as for your sarky comments, just remember you are still in range of a very powerful rubber-band gun!