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By the bye

Posted by Smokey Stover on May 27, 2004

In Reply to: By the bye posted by Shae on May 26, 2004

: : : : I've searched and cannot find the origin of the phrase "By the way". It's used so heavily that a search comes back with thousands of hits.

: : : : Can anyone clue me in?

: : : : Thanks...JC

: : : I'm from the U.S. I've noticed that in British mysteries they sometimes say "any road" instead of "anyway." Which leads me to wonder if "way" in "by the way" means road.

: : "Any road" is certainly a common saying in Lancashire in Northern England. I think that "by the way" probably means at the wayside - at the side of the road.

: I can't find anything in my books to support this, but I suspect 'by the way' may be a derivation/evolution of 'by the bye.' Anyone?

In regard to Shae's suggestion concerning "by the bye," I always thought the opposite, namely, that it was a sort of humorous derivative of "by the way." I had also assumed that the latter was related to road, and was pleased to find that the OED agrees. They show how to go from way as road to the meaning of "by the way," as follows. "I. Road, path. 31. by the way. a. Along or near the road by which one travels; by the road-side. b. While going along, in the course of one's walk or journey. c. fig. with reference to the tenor of discourse: Incidentally, in passing, as a side-topic." Their citations for 31.c. are from 1556 et seq. SS