left & right in politics

Shapiro, Fred Fred.Shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat Jan 5 14:54:19 UTC 2008

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "This use originated in the French National Assembly of 1789, in which the nobles as a body took the position of honour on the President's right, and the Third Estate sat on his left. The significance of these positions, which was at first merely ceremonial, soon became political."

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Jan Kammert [write at SCN.ORG]
Sent: Saturday, January 05, 2008 9:30 AM
Subject: left & right in politics

I am a teacher, and yesterday in class we were talking about the Iowa
caucuses.  My students wondered why Democrats are called the left and
Republicans are called the right.  I have a vague memory of something a
teacher told me when I was in high school.

I didn't want to share what I remember because my memory is from so long
ago, and because I don't know if the teacher was right.   ... Something
about the defense sitting on the left in court???

Can any of you let me know how left and right came to be?

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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