Wrong side of the tracks

Wrong side of the tracks is an idiom that originated in the United States. We will examine the meaning of the common saying wrong side of the tracks, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

The wrong side of the tracks is the impoverished or shoddy district in any town or city; the term is used as a metaphor to mean living without the advantages that more socially or economically stable people are accustomed to. For instance, someone who was born into an economically disadvantaged family may say that he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Someone who does not currently have economic or social advantages may say he lives on the wrong side of the tracks; this expression is sometimes literal, but is usually is figurative. The expression wrong side of the tracks is an image taken from the years when railroads were the most modern mode of transportation. Railroad tracks ran through towns and cities. The neighborhoods near or downwind of the railroad tracks bore the brunt of noise and soot from the locomotives. Consequently, the people who lived in these areas, on the wrong side of the tracks, were too poor to live anywhere else that was more pleasant. Ancient philosophers equated the right side of anything as the positive side and the left side of anything as the sinister or negative side. Though railroads were extremely important in the 1800s and the last spike that connected the American Transcontinental Railroad was driven in 1869 in Promontory, Utah, the expression wrong side of the tracks did not become popular until the 1920s. The phrase right side of the tracks, to mean someone who was born into or is living a life of good fortune, is sometimes seen but is not nearly as popular as the negative iteration of the term.

Examples

Being born in either the right or the wrong side of the tracks, carrying these or the other genes in our chromosomes, or indeed taking this or the other turn on a seemingly unimportant day, will determine our future. (Psychology Today Magazine)

For he and them it is a completion of a long journey to redemption – the boy from the wrong side of the tracks made good. (Daily Mail)

He almost felt sorry for the preppies and kids from the right side of the tracks. (Coachella Valley Independent)

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