Language is fascinating. Being a writer I’ve always been interested in words. It’s interesting how the words come together to form sentences and paragraphs and stories.
I’ve recently been reading a book by Richard Lederer called “The Miracle of Language”. I’ve learned a lot from Mr. Lederer’s writings. Today I’m just going to touch on one of his subjects.
Do you ever think of the English language as being prejudiced? This is not something I had ever thought about until reading his book. I’m talking about individual words, not the concept.
Ten percent of the population is left-handed. In our society there are many devices that lefties can’t use or have a hard time using. Some musical instruments, class room desks, spiral notebooks, ice cream scoopers, baseball mitts in gym class, and jeans zippers, (try zipping your jeans with your left hand, darn near impossible!) These are just a few examples.
Now to get to my blog post, and prejudiced words in the English language. Specifically, today I’m writing about two words, left and right.
Take the word ‘right’. Is it a good word or a bad word? When taking a test you either get the answer ‘right or wrong’. Correct or incorrect. That’s expected and understood in the context of the meaning of ‘right’.
If you apply the right-ness of the word right, what does that do to the word left, and left-handed persons? If someone is awkward at dancing, it’s said ‘he has two left feet’ not two ‘right feet’, even though it would be awkward to dance with two right feet too.
Your boss doesn’t have a left hand man, does he or she? And does her left hand know what her right hand is doing? Maybe her ‘right hand should know what her left hand is doing’, but we don’t say that.
When it’s said someone or something has come ‘out of left field’ it means they are untypical, unusual, or strange.
These types of uses reveal that right has the context of meaning correctness, rectitude and importance, and left does not.