When someone is beside themselves, where are they? And is it beside or besides?
Turns out to be a crowded field. Just ask the people standing there. Some are beside themselves. A few are reading books. One or two are looking at you funny. *Others are lining up stones.
From the Cambridge Dictionary:
Beside: a proposition meaning ‘at the side of’ or ‘next to’.
Besides: a proposition or a linking adverb, meaning ‘in addition to,’ or ‘also’.
So you can be next to the babbling brook but also you can be running away from the people in the field. Your choice.
I left Cambridge and wandered over to my bookshelf to see what Roget (1946) had to say on the matter of beside / besides.
Illuminating! But that’s for another post.
* I’ve been working my way through Lapham’s Quarterly, their Crimes & Punishments Issue (Volume II, Number 2, Spring 2009). They were kind enough to feature Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, which I hadn’t read in years.