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#70040 - 05/16/02 06:26 AM left wing and right wing
dxb Offline

Registered: 03/06/02
Posts: 1692
Loc: UK
I have become curious as to the origin of these terms when used to describe socialist or conservative politics.

It occurred to me that it might originate from the positions of the two parties in Parliament, but research shows that in the UK at least the party in power sits on the right of the Speaker and the major opposition sits on the left.

Please can any political history buff provide the answer?

Come to think of it, why is left wing red and right wing blue?


#70041 - 05/16/02 07:32 AM Re: left wing and right wing
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
It stems from the lay out of the parties in the Jacobin chamber, which was somewhat circular in shape compared to thetypical UK (and derivative) oppositional style. It's a classic case of a particular attribute getting attached to and then redefining the word used to identify the subject!

#70042 - 05/16/02 08:45 AM Post deleted by SilkMuse
SilkMuse Offline

Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 170

#70043 - 05/16/02 09:18 AM Re: left wing and right wing
Jazzoctopus Offline
old hand

Registered: 07/03/00
Posts: 1094
Loc: Cincinnati & Loveland, Ohio, U...
It stems from the lay out of the parties in the Jacobin chamber

It's that way in the US Congress as well. The Dems sit on the left (facing the speaker) and the Reps on the right. (I wonder where Jim Jeffords sits.)

Does anyone know when the US developed this custom? I wouldn't think that the early Congress would have copied what the Brits were doing, seeing as the new nation was trying to be completely different.

#70044 - 05/16/02 10:35 AM Re: left wing and right wing
Hyla Offline

Registered: 12/14/00
Posts: 544
Loc: San Francisco, CA
I'll be out of pocket this afternoon, but I have my pager

SilkMuse - thanks for your clear definition of the correct use of "out of pocket" - its misuse drives me mad.

I occasionally work with a group of people in an office in Dallas who all, each and every one of them, use this phrase in the incorrect sense you describe - even going so far as to change their voice-mail messages to say they're "out of pocket" when they're away from the office for a few days. They happen to be a fairly rigidly hierarchical organization, and I have assumed that, when in the office, the staff-people I work with feel that they are in the manager's pockets. Thus, when they get to escape from that by travelling or going to meetings outside the office, they are in fact "out of pocket." But it's still wrong, in my book.

#70045 - 05/16/02 12:06 PM Re: left wing and right wing
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
I thought left wing and right wing came from the French?

Good question on the red and blue, dxb. It's that way in the US, too. Maybe red comes from Communism? and blue to be as distinct as possible from red?

In other words, I have no clue and am merely "voicing" vague ideas from my junk-drawer memory®. Can anyone with time/inclination look these up? Dr Bill, where are you??

#70046 - 05/16/02 12:48 PM Re: out of pocket
boronia Offline

Registered: 02/18/02
Posts: 322
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Wow - I've never heard 'out of pocket' (mis)used like that. It sounds really funny to me. I can hardly imagine how/why that started (unless Hyla's assumption is right). Very interesting.

#70047 - 05/16/02 01:05 PM Re: out of pocket
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
can hardly imagine how/why that started

Perhaps the usage developed when one is on one's own financially rather than on expense account or using a company credit card, for example, if on vacation all expenses are one's own and one is "out of pocket".

#70048 - 05/16/02 01:09 PM Re: out of pocket
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
word detective:


Dear Word Detective: I am having an argument with my brother. He insists that the
phrase "out of pocket" refers to expenditure from one's own resources, with the
expectation of later reimbursement. I contend that one is "out of pocket" when one
cannot be reached, is outside of the place where one can contact or be contacted. He has found a legal brief to support his position and I want something from another expert that challenges his brief. -- Dr. Nancy Tarsi, via the internet.

You know, I'm not entirely sure I want to get involved in this argument if you folks are already waving legal briefs at each other. Am I going to have to testify in court? I should warn you that I grew up watching the old Perry Mason TV series, and the moment I land in the witness box I'm likely to break down and confess to all sorts of shocking, if somewhat irrelevant, transgressions.

I'm especially apprehensive about answering your question because I'm afraid that
your brother's case is very strong. "Out of pocket" is indeed usually used as a sort of shorthand for "paying out of one's own pocket that which should (and usually ultimately will) be paid by someone else." Interestingly, the original sense of "out of pocket" when it first appeared around 1693 was not so hopeful. It meant to be either "broke" or "the loser in a financial transaction."

However, and here's where your case gains strength, around 1974 "out of pocket" also started being used to mean "out of touch" or "unavailable." No one seems to know exactly why this sense arose or what the "pocket" in this case might be. Personally, I suspect that it's a bad translation of some French phrase. In any case, this sense of "out of pocket" is not, as far as I can tell, widely used. A more common phrase meaning the same thing is "out of the loop," which first appeared around 1983 and is probably rooted in computer terminology.

But the bottom line is that you're both right, although your brother is a bit more likely to be clearly understood when he uses "out of pocket."

word mavens: (this mentions that it has been discussed at alt.usage.english)



#70049 - 05/16/02 01:16 PM Re: left wing and right wing
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass

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