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 Right said Fred

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Right said Fred   Thu 22 May 2014, 20:15

That old song instantly reflected a now long gone but warmly familiar about its moment in time that many English, anyway, could identify warmly with then - and perhaps is on going on occasion.
Right -  what an interesting word with so many contextual meanings.  How did that happen? Is it all to do with being right handed? Is it also reflected in other languages?
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Thu 22 May 2014, 21:01

Well just for starters "right" has exactly the same meanings in French whether one talks about one's right hand (ma main droite), my rights (mes droits), or the right of law (le droit de la loi). And yes I think it is all about the rightness of being right-handed and dextrous ... as opposed to those sinister, left-handers, ... les mains gauches - which again, in French, also implies clumsiness as in the modern French expression: "il a deux mains gauches/he has two left hands" - which is basically the same as the English: "he has two left feet".

But given that thoughout history it likely that at considerable proportion of the human race have tended to favour their left side .... I'm interested to know why these so-called "sinister" people have been so vilified.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Thu 22 May 2014, 22:32

@Priscilla wrote:
That old song instantly reflected a now long gone but warmly familiar about its moment in time that many English, anyway, could identify warmly with then - and perhaps is on going on occasion.
Right -  what an interesting word with so many contextual meanings.  How did that happen? Is it all to do with being right handed? Is it also reflected in other languages?


Dear Priscilla,

already since nearly two weeks preparing an in depth reply to Caro's "Selling war" and now she is gone for some weeks. That big backlog as on Historum...I hope that Ferval at least still attend that board...and still my French messageboard Passion Histoire...Saw also on that thread some episodes of your life as for instance three wars starting...what precious details.and what a life...I only born during WWII...and as told bombed on some thirty yards by an American bomber...can only tell what I heard from my parents about the details of the war episodes in our town...

"That old song instantly reflected a now long gone but warmly familiar about its moment in time that many English, anyway, could identify warmly with then - and perhaps is on going on occasion."

Reading as a Belgian it is a mysterious sentence to me...is it a song from the Fifties?...when the English people were still cordial to each other? I think they are still cordial to each other...it all depends in what "circle" you are "submerged"? Wink 

BTW: While I am with you...how is it with your literary career?...only indirectly found something back while the old links are gone...

Back to the subject Embarassed ...

The word "right":
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=right

Kind regards and with great esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 04:31

@Meles meles wrote:
Well just for starters "right" has exactly the same meanings in French whether one talks about one's right hand (ma main droite), my rights (mes droits), or the right of law (le droit de la loi). And yes I think it is all about the rightness of being right-handed and dextrous ... as opposed to those sinister, left-handers, ... les mains gauches - which again, in French, also implies clumsiness as in the modern French expression: "il a deux mains gauches/he has two left hands" - which is basically the same as the English: "he has two left feet".

But given that thoughout history it likely that at considerable proportion of the human race have tended to favour their left side .... I'm interested to know why these so-called "sinister" people have been so vilified.

As far as I know the culprit is Christianity again MM. Something about with the left hand supposedly being of the devil?

My mother was born left handed but was forced to use her right hand throughout school, the effects that has had on her are telling.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 07:44

One can of course also be socially gauche. And politically one can favour the right or left .... how did these generally accepted political labels become established?

Incidentally my etymological French dictionary derives the modern gauche-left from Old French gaucher, "to trample, stumble or walk clumsily". So it seems in French left-handedness has become associated with the older meaning of clumsiness, rather than the other way around. The French droit-right comes from the latin directus "direct, straight, upright" .... and there's still the hangover of that when one says, in giving directions: "allez tout droit", meaning, "go straight on", rather than "go to the right".


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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 07:54

Up north "right" is used as a qualifier all the time, as in "to have a right cob on" (cob=huff), "to make a right pig's ear of something" or "to have a right good time".

But people in the south also use "right" in an informal way, as in "right you are" and the lovely old "righty-ho". According to Wodehouse, however, that should be "right-ho", but I always add the "y".






PS Re religion and Christianity and other such difficult subjects, it does appear that religion is indeed a culprit (and being righteous and especially being self-righteous is of course a Very Bad Thing):

•Christianity is strongly based towards the right hand. It is the right had that gives the blessing and make the sign of the cross.

•On one count, the Bible contains over 100 favourable reference to the right-hand and 25 unfavourable references to the left-hand. E.g.: The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly, the right hand of the Lord is exalted (Psalm 118 vv15,16)

•The left hand does worst in the parable of the sheep and goats. The sheep are set on Christ's right hand and the goats on the left. Those on the right inherit the kingdom of God while those on the left depart into everlasting fire (to quote Matthew 25: verse 41: “Then he will say unto those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”)

•The situation is much the same in Judaism and Islam. In Islam, the left hand and everything associated with it is seen as unclean. This stems from the Middle Eastern custom of using the left-hand and water instead of toilet paper and, more recently, of using the left handed to hold toilet paper for the same function.  This is the origin of the term "cack-handed"
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 08:10

Before religion per se takes all the blame it should be added that anthropological research reveals the problem to be rather more deeply ingrained in societal behaviour. Taboos of which the right-handed bias is a good example, and specifically social behaviour regulated and codified to encourage these taboos, have been around as long as records exist. However what emerges as a general rule of thumb in this regard is that the codification simply reveals the appeal of the taboo to sections of society devoted to controlling human behaviour, thought and policy (of which religion has always been the prime but not the only expression of such activity). It does not however tell us how much the taboo has been adopted by society in general - breaking taboos has seemingly been as endemic a human attitude and behaviour as imposing them.

Ancient Egypt, China and Mesopotamian society seems to have at different point also enforced a taboo concerning left-handedness. However ancient Greece in the time of the city states and fledgling democracy has yet to reveal any such activity or bias at all - indicating how the lack of a central authority to force a cultural taboo seriously reduces its visibility and possibly even its ability to last at all.

The root of the left-handed taboo is simply a numbers thing. Left-handed people are an obvious minority and that status alone encourages the majority to describe their behaviour as inherently "odd". However anthropologically the proof of the sustained existence of this particular oddness elevated to the status of a taboo seems always to come from sources associated with authority, or what passes/passed for authority in different cultures.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 08:43

Irrespective of the culture, language or alphabet used, the habit worldwide has generally been to write alphabetic, cursive script left to right, and/or top to down. This makes perfect practical sense for right-handed writers .... but left-handers have to adopt a very recurved writing stance if their left hand and wrist are not to constantly smudge across the still wet ink as they progress, left to right, across the page. So there is a very practical reason for "prejudice" against the minority of left-handers.

And in relation to Nord's comments above about ancient Greece ... I may well be wrong in this, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that some really old Greek texts were written (and so also read) "like a ploughed field" ie: 1st line, left-to-right; 2nd line, right-to-left; third line, left-to-right; and so on down the page.  I have to say that does not seem very practical at all for an alphabetic writing system like Greek that spells out phonetically each word.... but it would be quite practical for text written in, say, Egyptian hieroglyphics, where each word is a single symbol (albeit composed of phonetic elements).
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 09:42

The homophonic nature of the word is celebrated in the old chestnut we learnt as kids. Here it is with incorrect spelling;

Right right right right right right right right right right.

The thing is that this statement with its spelling corrected and a little punctuation inserted here and there makes sense in English ...
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 10:31

What pompted this thread was a remark made by a university speaker in a prog on Alexander the Great's battle strategy at Isus. You are to assume that it was a dumbed down life of A THe G that had me fuming at almost every sentence. However, he remark that the right flank was considered the most honorable position to fight in those times - by both sides, I assume so that each would be facing a lesser strength? Anyway - to fight on the right surely had something to do with being right handed. In this battle it was cavalry ..... like Roman ailya deployment, in fact. Is there evidence of 'South Paw' warriors? It would appear to be an advantage in some circumstances. A woman I knew well who won a 1936 Gold caused a later change in Olympic foil/fencing rules because she was ambidextrous.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 10:54

Medieval spiral staircases in castles are usually left-handed spirals. This supposedly makes it easier to defend against a right-handed attacker trying to climb up, as their shield, on their left arm, would be to the outside of the spiral, while the defender's shield would be tight in against the centre of the spiral.

A left-handed spiral is like the tendrils of honeysuckle, while a right-handed spiral is as per wisteria or bindweed, so clearly plants have handedness too:



And I think Flanders & Swann have it the wrong way round, no?
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 11:26

@Meles meles wrote:
One can of course also be socially gauche. And politically one can favour the right or left .... how did these generally accepted political labels become established?

...

According to what my good history teacher told me sometime in the latter half of the last century, this came from the time of the French Revolution when, seen from the Speaker's seat, the more radicals had seated [did they sit down?] themselves to the left whereas themore conservative elements were to the right.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 11:51

@Nielsen wrote:
Quote :
According to what my good history teacher told me sometime in the latter half of the last century, this came from the time of the French Revolution when, seen from the Speaker's seat, the more radicals had seated [did they sit down?] themselves to the left whereas themore conservative elements were to the right.

That makes sense, thanks.

EDIT : And wiki says: "Following a tradition started by the first National Assembly during the French Revolution, the "left-wing" parties sit to the left as seen from the president's seat, and the "right-wing" parties sit to the right, and the seating arrangement thus directly indicates the political spectrum as represented in the Assembly."

And it seems they did originally have seats, although whether they actually sat on them or preferred to stand on them, is moot:

 


In my experience if a person's politics veer more and more towards the left, through the liberals and socialists, and on even further to the left of the communists ... they actually end up full circle way over to the right with the dictators and ultra-conservatives.


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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 12:05

I think Prince Charles happened on that full circle notion, mm? ....' And so they 'ad a cuppa tea'

Can anyone find Right said Fred song for Paul, please?  I must away and do my local museum voluntary bit now.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 12:17

Which might explain the preference for circular parliamentary chambers around the world.

The etymology of words to do with left is very interesting. In English "left" is derived from a root meaning "weak" or "foolish". The German "link" and Dutch "linka" are from a "slink" word which, just as in modern English, means "crawl" or "slither", going back to a Scandinavian "linka" meaning "limp" or "to dangle". In Norwegian "venster" (once used in English as "wenestra"), despite its near rhyme to "sinister" is actually a comparative form of "venn" (friend) and is used as an antidote spoken verbally whenever the non-right side and all that is evil about it is invoked in conversation. The Greeks did the same, invoking "aristeros" (the better alternative) when forced to refer to non-right things.

Trust the Irish to buck the trend. The Gaelic "chlé" has a very ancient Indo-European root, also the basis of "chroí" (heart), which literally means just that - "heart". To Celtic speakers it was enough to indicate the side of the body the heart is found in, a much less sensationally superstitious and eminently practical solution, I think. For anyone who has to think before deciding whether to use their left or their right hand for anything they only had to take a pause and feel for a pulse to have the matter decided automatically for them.


Bernard Cribbens - Right Said Fred
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 13:19

So I'll put my hand into a jar of lentils and then what? Prove sweaty palms, yes,and what else?

I could ring 111 - or perhaps not. Imagine the dialogue. so where are your chest pains? Well, I.ve got me 'and in a tub of rice but I'm not sure what to do next.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 14:17

The left side of my brain has just crawled up its own ventricular aperture and died a slow agonising death after trying to make sense of that post, P.  

 Cheers 

I am now checking my pulse to see how to bless myself.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 14:23

"Right-hand man" is apparently a sexist remark these days and its usage is frowned upon (you are supposed to say "second-in-command), but I wonder if it is true that the original remark is to do with having a trusty (usually male) person at your side who could and would defend you if your sword arm (usually right arm as most people are right-handed) had been badly wounded or even sliced off in battle.

Having a left-hand woman at your side does sound a bit odd.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 14:34

@Temperance wrote:

I wonder if it is true that the original remark is to do with having a trusty (usually male) person at your side who could and would defend you if your sword arm (usually right arm as most people are right-handed) had been badly wounded or even sliced off in battle.

In hand-to-hand combat a right-handed person will be most effective returning blows in an assault from his left. The OED guesses that it was the practice to have a trusted deputy or comrade at your right hand to ward off attack from that side too. This usage, it guesses, could be said to well predate the other origin often suggested concerning Jesus's placement at "god's right hand". The latter might even be said to be logical only if the former explanation already had enjoyed long application.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 14:48

The vulnerability of a swordsman's right side was exploited at the battle of Culloden when the government troops adopted a new bayonet drill to counter the Highland charge. Each soldier in the infantry line would thrust at the enemy on his right, rather than the one straight ahead, in order to get in round the targe (shield) and under the sword arm of the Highlanders. The innovative drill worked very well.

The Jacobite cause was also hampered at Culloden because the Macdonald regiments had been placed on the extreme left of the Highland line and initially refused to charge as ordered because of the perceived insult of being placed on the left wing. As a consequence of their delay the Jacobite line became dangerously skewed.


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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 14:49

Interesting thread folks, it's got me thinking about just what a bl**dy nuisance a corrie-fister must have been in a coordinated military situation such as a shield wall, a phalanx or a schiltron for example. You really wouldn't want one beside you, banging his shield against yours or waving his sword in the road of yours.

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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 15:02

True enough Ferval, but in one to one combat a southpaw would have the advantage. He'd have been experienced in tackling 90% right-handed guys. A right handed chap would also have encountered adversaries who were 90% right-handed and only rarely, roughly 10% of the time, would he have encountered a left-hander. So all things being equal the left-handed guy would have the advantage since he was accustomed to fighting right-handers.


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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Fri 23 May 2014, 15:19

@ferval wrote:
Interesting thread folks, it's got me thinking about just what a bl**dy nuisance a corrie-fister must have been in a coordinated military situation such as a shield wall, a phalanx or a schiltron for example. You really wouldn't want one beside you, banging his shield against yours or waving his sword in the road of yours.



The Theban general Epaminondus countered the Spartan Army's strong right flank by massing a column 50 ranks deep and using it to break what was traditionally the strongest part of a Spartan Army at the Battle of Leuctra in 371BC


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Leuctra
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Sat 24 May 2014, 00:43

The year 1970 saw the release of not 1 but 2 American rhythm & blues/soul albums entitled Right On. Wilson Pickett on the Atlantic label was one while the other was a Motown record by The Supremes. The following year 1971 saw Marvin Gaye record the track Right On on his What's Going On? album while the same year the magazine Right On! was launched aimed primarily at African American teenagers.

The term 'right on' developed a political connotation over the next couple of decades and also crossed the Atlantic. In the UK by the early 1990s the term had even become an alternative (often pejorative) for the concept of 'political correctness' and was far removed from its North American origins. And in the intervening 20 years again since then, this usage too has generally dropped out of the vernacular.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Sat 24 May 2014, 00:55

@nordmann wrote:
Which might explain the preference for circular parliamentary chambers around the world.
Isn't that so there are no corners for them to skulk in?
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Sun 25 May 2014, 10:35

@Meles meles wrote:

A left-handed spiral is like the tendrils of honeysuckle, while a right-handed spiral is as per wisteria or bindweed, so clearly plants have handedness too:



And I think Flanders & Swann have it the wrong way round, no?

I've just looked at my plants in the garden and I'm sure I'm correct, honeysuckle climbs anticlockwise while bindweed climbs clockwise, despite Flanders & Swann having the Honeysuckles say about the common Bindweeds:


"They're uncultivated of breeding bereft,
We twine to the right while they twine to the left".

..... Is that error just for adroit and dextrous artistic rhyming purposes? Or was it more sinister and that the facts were deliberately reversed to reinforce the old prejudice that equates refined with "right", and common with "left"?

I suspect a bit of both - though it's unlike F & S to get their natural history facts wrong.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Tue 18 Nov 2014, 21:22

I visited Ferniehirst Castle many years ago when it was a Youth Hostel  and I could walk from Newcastle to Jedburgh.
  It still sticks in my mind how disorienting it was to walk up their spiral staircases which were (allegedly) designed for the left handed Kerr clan.
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PostSubject: Re: Right said Fred   Wed 19 Nov 2014, 10:45

Hi Mr Nogler - good to see you drop in!

Spiral staircases going anti-clockwise in ascent as a feature of fortified dwellings are not as rare as people think. Norwich Castle, Newark on Trent Castle in Nottingham, Brandon Castle and Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire, and even the famous "White Tower" of the Tower of London, are all notable examples. All in all, Britain has 85 extant examples (and as many again known to have existed in buildings now destroyed).

Often buildings had at least two spiral staircases winding in alternate directions, normally one to the left and one to the right of the main portal in those strongly built keep-gatehouses which typified Norman architecture up to the 1300s. The practice continued in popularity on into Tudor times, though by then the potential military aspect to the design must have mattered far less than the purely aesthetic anyway.

This excellent journal entry published by the Castle Studies Group contains an exhaustive list of such structures as well as some brilliant illustrations and photographs.
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