Since I don't understand it in the first place, I better just give you an example:

Cracked.com example, says otherwise known as "the pettiest hobo crime this side of aggressive panhandling." (WARNING: site graphics could be NSFW, YMMV)

It's not the only time I have seen it but it's the only one I can find via Google Search

The usage that I've seen seems to indicate some sort of comparison. The example above seems to say that "where we live, panhandling is aggressive", but I can't figure out the exact meaning

Note: So far I think I've only seen this phrase in cracked.com itself. Perhaps it's some kind of inside joke, but I certainly don't get it and its usage seems pretty legitimate

EDIT: Mathias Foster gives 2 other examples: this side of the black stump and this side of the equator.

  • 1
    Other examples include 'this side of the black stump' or 'this side of the equator'. You may want to add these to your question.
    – user72323
    Sep 4, 2014 at 5:52
  • Thanks, I'll put them in. By the way, where have you heard such usage?
    – Raestloz
    Sep 4, 2014 at 6:39
  • This is extremely common from where I come from (New Zealand) and is often used jokingly.
    – user72323
    Sep 4, 2014 at 6:41
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    ... everything west of the Mississippi being vaster, grander, more abundant, weirder, wilder – so the best beans / biggest silver mine / dryest land ... this side of the Mississippi. It goes without saying that it will be outdone on the other side. Sep 4, 2014 at 7:34
  • 1
    Just read 'the Y-est X this side of a/the Z' to be a humorous idiomatic way of saying 'a really Y X'. If you invent an example, make sure you don't mix comparators 'He's the best yod-dropper this side of the pond' but not 'the biggest goldmine this side of a Roman emperor'. Sep 4, 2014 at 7:54

2 Answers 2


Cracked.com is a satirical site, and their usage there is, appropriately to Cracked, inappropriate. Aggressive panhandling is very annoying; bilking nations out of tens of millions of dollars in taxes is a little bit worse than petty.

This side of is a common idiom, meaning some (point/amount/quality) up to, but not including another. The Free Dictionary gives this example:

Nobody this side of a Roman emperor wants athletes to die for the sake of entertainment.

This side of heaven, or this side of the grave are common examples of this idiom, as are This side of (an age).

Dictionary.com gives it's origins in the 1400s, which I was doubtful, until I read this quote by Ben Johnson (1572–1637):

For I loved the man and do honour his memory, on this side of idolatry, as much as any.

  • So the boundary metaphor pre-dates westward colonisation of the US. Sep 4, 2014 at 7:57
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    So you're saying "this side of X" is basically "except X"?
    – Raestloz
    Sep 4, 2014 at 8:06
  • 3
    There are two related senses now. The more obvious one is 'The biggest (etc) you'll find until you start looking at those on the other side of X'. There may be more than one that's bigger etc, which you'll come across when you expand your horizons. X is a notional horizon / boundary (the Mississippi, the black stump ...). The other sense is 'except for X [and his bigger brothers etc]': here, X is an arbitrary 'large' comparator (this side of Everest / the Queen Mary / a Roman emperor ...). Sep 4, 2014 at 8:24
  • @Raestloz - yes, basically, but not "the other side of/more than" X. Edwin, yes, you're quite right. Sep 4, 2014 at 8:26
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    @Raestloz "Except X" includes things that are beyond X, whereas "this side of X" does not.
    – augurar
    Sep 5, 2014 at 4:36

In context, the full reference is:

Yep, the country that may or may not be a nuclear power and that enjoys presenting itself as a legitimate player on the global stage is actively participating in cigarette counterfeiting and smuggling, otherwise known as "the pettiest hobo crime this side of aggressive panhandling."


The presented idea in this case is to make an argument that cigarette counterfeiting is a petty crime, and as the title of the Cracked page suggests, "Insane".

So, what's a petty crime? Basically, per Wikipedia's redirect, anything that would be considered a misdemeanor. From the link above, though, it seems that cigarette counterfeiting bilks "the U.S. federal government and state governments $736,000 (weighted average) in revenue for each 40-foot shipping container of illicit cigarettes entering the United States." This would likely be a felony.

On one side, there's a large, thriving, business and on the other, there's poor people trying to make a few bucks. And the article's writer is trying to make a subjective point to say that the cigarette smuggling (implicitly, "and can you believe that's a thing?") is somewhat less of a thing than aggressive panhandling.

But what does that mean for the answer to the original question?

It means that the term this side of is simply a way of comparison. For this case, it reads that the left side is almost, but not quite, as important as the right side.

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