left & right in politics

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Jan 5 14:54:49 UTC 2008

On Jan 5, 2008, at 6:30 AM, Jan Kammert wrote:

> 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.

there's a wikipedia page for Left-right_politics, and an entry for
Left in Brewer.  from the OED entry for "centre":

15. Politics. In the French Chamber (which is arranged in the form of
an amphitheatre), the deputies of moderate opinions who occupy the
central benches in front of the president, between the extreme parties
who sit to the right and left...

  (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.)

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

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