left & right in politics

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Jan 5 16:17:05 UTC 2008

On Jan 5, 2008, at 7:34 AM, Gerald Cohen wrote:

> This is a request for just a minor bit of clarification.  Did the
> 1789 President sit (or stand) facing the other members of the
> Assembly?

yes.  the (other) members of the Assembly sat in an amphitheatre
facing the President.

>  If he did, the members sitting to his right would be on the left
> side of the room and those to his left would be on the right side of
> the room.

"left" and "right" are from the point of view of the President as he
faces the Assembly.  (think "stage left" and "stage right" in
acting.)  just the opposite of the directions from the point of view
of the (other) members of the Assembly.

> from the OED entry for "centre":
> <snip>
>  (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.)


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