Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Episode 89: Wrong Side of the Bed Show Notes

 Show notes for Wrong Side of the Bed. Click on "Read More" to see the full notes. 

Bunny Trails

Episode 87: Wrong Side

Record Date: September 2, 2020

Air Date: September 2, 2020


Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh 

And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week, we take an idiom, or other turn of phrase, and try to tell the story from it’s entry into the English language, to how it’s used today. 

Do you ever feel like you’re having an off day? Like, maybe things just aren’t going quite right or you are just a little grouchy? Almost like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed? 


Someone who has gotten up on the wrong side of the bed is short-tempered, irritable, grumpy, essentially - they are in a bad mood. 

Another use involves the superstition that getting up on the wrong side of the bed will earn someone a day filled with bad luck. That bad luck could be little hiccups in the flow of their day or it could be worse, with everything big and small going poorly. 

(Fun sidebar on the word hiccup and false etymologies of English words.)

Here is the definition from the Cambridge Dictionary: 

get up on the wrong side of the bed (UK get out of bed (on) the wrong side)

And it means: to be in a bad mood and to be easily annoyed all day

So Dan, do you know anything about the origins of this phrase? 

Well, I’m going to share some stories and perhaps you can guess which is correct… 

Our first is a little on the spooky side… but it’s September, so Halloween season has officially begun.

“Meaning to be grumpy throughout the day, to get out the wrong side of the bed derives from an ancient superstition that evil spirits lay on a certain side of the bed. A person who wakes up and gets out the "wrong" side of the bed disturbs the evil spirits and attracts their wrath, putting the person in a foul mood.”

Perhaps this origin story? (Romans) 

“The phrase originated in the ancient Roman empire. The Romans had a superstition that the left side of the bed was the wrong side, and getting on the left side, i.e, the wrong side of the bed would bring them bad luck for the day.”

There is a slight variation on this story out there as well. 

“The origin of the expression ‘wake up on the wrong side of the bed’ is thought to come from ancient Rome. Romans were very careful always to get up on the correct side of the bed to ensure that good luck would follow them through their days. If they got up “left foot forward” or “on the wrong side of the bed,” they believed that they would be unlucky.”

And here is a more in-depth description. This one sort of combines the spooky with the soldiers.

“The origin of ‘get up on the wrong side of the bed’ is more literal than metaphorical. The Romans had a superstition about which side of the bed you should get up on. Specifically, that side was the right side. The left side was the sinister side, related to the Devil. In fact, sinister was the Latin word for ‘left’ while dexter was the word for right. If you weren’t paying attention and got up on the left side of the bed instead of the right, you were in for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. This saying about getting up on the wrong side of the bed passed through all of the Roman-influenced world, at first with specific intentions, later evolving into a figurative expression. [sinister etymology below] This superstition about the left side is related to the superstition about throwing salt over the left shoulder. Salt wards off the Devil, who likes to attack from the left, or sinister side. See more information about salt superstitions. It is also the origin of having a “devil on your left shoulder and an angel on your right.”

Now, they did link to the Online Etymology Dictionary for readers to learn more about the etymology of the word sinister

But before I get into that, what do you think, Dan

The etymology provided by Online Etymology Dictionary is done well and explains the connection of left and sinister. The word sinister appears in the 1300s as a French word from the Latin. Adopted in the 1400s, it was used in heraldry with the definition: "prompted by malice or ill-will, intending to mislead," … basically it meant evil. While this does pin down the alternative use of the term left and that this could have been used by ancient Romans as a term for evil, bad spirits, bad luck, etc., it does not establish anything about beds. 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there is an interesting concept with the pairing of the words “wrong side” seen in the mid-1600s

To be on the wrong side of a given age, meant "older than," 

As seen in Thomas Killgrew’s 1664 Parsons Wedding, from Comedies and Tragedies

She is smitten in years o’th wrong side of forty. 

However, getting up on the wrong side of the bed and similar phrases just don’t seem to have been around, certainly not in print, until the 1800s

And this brings us to Oxford English Dictionary who gives us this definition: 

g.  to get up or out of bed (on) the wrong side, with allusion to the supposed disturbing effect on one's temper. (Cf. right side n. Phrases 1.) colloquial.

1801    Elizabeth Wright Marvellous Pleasant Love-story  

You have got up on the wrong side, this morning, George.

1846 A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs and Ancient Customs from the Fourteenth Century - Volume 1 by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps

“The phrase of getting out the wrong side of the bed is applied to a person who is peevish and ill tempered.”

1867   Silcote Of Silcotes: By Henry Kingsley  

Miss had got out of bed the wrong side.

1887    George Robert Sims Mary Jane's Memoirs: Compiled From Her Original Manuscript  

I never lived in a family that so often got out of bed on the wrong side, to use a homely expression.

The English dialect dictionary by Joseph Wright · 1893

“You must have got out at the wrong side of the bed this morning.” Said to a person who shows ill temper. 

A Quick Thank You

Shoutout to our Patrons, with special thanks to our Logomorphology Interns Pat Rowe and Mary Lopez, for sponsoring our show. Your support makes Bunny Trails happen. 

Our patrons get access to special bonus episodes, as well as behind the scenes chats with Shauna and I. Best of all, our Patrons get to know they are helping provide a safe place for your brain for 30 minutes every week. Learn more at 

Pop Culture and Modern Examples

2014 - Administration and Use of Public Lands - Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys, United States Senate, Seventy-seventh Congress, First Session, Pursuant to S. Res. 241 (76th Congress) : a Resolution Authorizing the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys to Make a Full and Complete Investigation with Respect to the Administration and Use of Public Lands · Parts 16-20

The Wrong Side of the Bed is a 2016 children’s book by Lisa Bakos, illustrated by Anna Raff

This super cute book begins with the mishap-filled morning of Lucy, who struggles with everything from finding matching socks to catching the bus to school. The dedication reads: 

“For Steve, Alec, Jillian, and Josef - the bright side of all my days.” L.M.B. 

“For Joel, who makes every day better.” - A.R.

2020 River Valley Cats on Twitter shared a photo of an angry-looking cat with the speech bubble reading, “Tuesday, Shmuesday.” along with the caption: 

“Mavis got up on the wrong side of the cat bed today.” 

Also on Twitter this week, Berry Heart shared this message with a sweet photo showing off her pregnant belly: 

“Yesterday I slept on the wrong side of the bed & woke up the same, went to the kitchen to make my warm lemon water, when I returned to the bedroom, my son was up, screaming and laughing. My whole negative emotions I woke up with was immediately transformed into happiness.” followed by the Sweet-Smiling-face-with-heart-shaped-eyes emoji. 

Wrap up...

I like Berry Heart’s take on this phrase. Maybe we feel in a bad mood when we wake up or things just aren’t going quite right. But we have the power to change things, at least most days. We have the power to manage our attitude towards our day and towards those around us. Focus on meaningful and beautiful things in life. And even on days that really, really suck remember that it’s temporary - the situation, the way you feel right now. If you’re having one of those days, I hope things get better for you. I hope there are positives around you that you can focus on. I hope we each are able to do those really important things, like - cherish the good stuff, honor those who are missed, show all the love to loved ones. And I hope you all take time to be awesome to yourself. … And I’ll work on that one, too. 



That’s about all the time we have for today. We appreciate you taking this adventure with us each week. If you learned something today or just enjoyed our ramblings, share BunnyTrails with your people. Word of mouth is the best way for others to hear about our show. Reviews on your fave podcast-listening app are also fantastic! 


We want to give you three book recommendations this week. First up:

Schmegoolge: Yiddish Words for Modern Times by Daniel Klien. Danny was recently on the show and talked about the book and the evolutions of language. Perfect for word nerds of all types.

Words The Sea Gave Us, by Grace Tierney. Grace was also recently on the show talking all sorts of nautical terms and general word foolery. Perfect for beachcombers, word nerds, and wannabe pirates.

And last, but certainly not least, Your Brain on Facts, by Moxie LaBouche. Moxie took some of the amazing research she does for the podcast and turned it into an amazing book. Trivia nerds will love it, and even regular listeners of the podcast (like us) will find tons of new content!

Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 

Words belong to their users.

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