Column: Beside myself

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Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

Did you know that “I Am the Walrus” was the B-side to The Beatles’ 1967 single “Hello, Goodbye?” Usually, a B-side served as a virtual throwaway for a band — a discarded song that would never get radio airtime. The focus was always intended for the A-side to shine. When I learned this piece of Beatles trivia, I was beside myself. Does anyone besides me feel the same way?

Today, we’re taking a look at “beside” and “besides.” The two words are often used interchangeably, even though they have distinct intended usages. Let’s start with “beside.” Beside is almost always used as a preposition that means “next to” or “on the side of.” I sat beside my record player while trying to dissect the meaning of Lennon’s kooky lyrics. When singing harmonies, Paul and George often stood beside each other and sang into the same microphone. I think you get the idea.

Occasionally, “beside” means “in comparison with.” Here’s an example: As The Beatles’ songs gained more popularity, they earned their place in rock ‘n’ roll history beside greats like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. This usage of beside is more figurative, instead of being literally next to Elvis and Chuck Berry.

“Besides” can be used as either an adverb or a preposition. As an adverb, it means “in addition to,” “also” or “otherwise.” For example: My friend Byron believes Paul McCartney died in a car crash in early 1966; besides, he’ll buy into just about any conspiracy theory. As a preposition, besides means “in addition to” or “except.” “Besides the clues on the cover of ‘Abbey Road,’ there’s evidence in countless Beatles lyrics to prove the theory,” Byron argued.

How are we supposed to tell the difference? No, I’m not referring to Paul McCartney and his supposed impostor/replacement, William Shears Campbell (a.k.a. Billy Shears); I’m referring to beside and besides. Let’s stay on topic here. The easy way to remember when to use beside or besides is that “besides” has one additional letter, and it also means “in addition to.” Use the longer word when you mean “in addition to.” Just like Paul McCartney (who is 100 percent alive) doesn’t want to be accused of being an imposter, don’t let people think you’re a grammar wannabe — know the difference between beside and besides.

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