Litkicks Message Board Archive

Hey Ironhands - Right Wing vs Left Wing

Posted to Poetry and Politics




When we had the discussion about "leftists" on March 20 and you used as your argument the idea that the US Congress has been controlled by "leftists", i.e. Democrats, I thought your explanation of the terms "left wing" and "right wing" was wrong. At the time, however, I didn't have the details to prove it.

But now I think I can safely say that you were wrong. The terms "left wing" and "right wing" predate the U.S. Congress, at least according to the following sources:

This site: http://www.wordorigins.org/wordorl.htm#Left

states:
"Left Wing
The 1789 French National Assembly seated the Third Estate on the left side of the chamber and the First Estate nobles on the right in the place of honor. The revolutionaries, of course, were in the Third Estate, hence the political term.
The wing is a military term. Left wing meaning the geographically left side of a deployed army dates to 1707."

This site concurs:
http://www.word-detective.com/back-d.html#right

And at this site:
http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20001213

You'll find this:
"The political senses of right and left originated in the French National Assembly of 1789: the nobles, who were conservative, were seated on the presiding officer's right (the côté droit), and the members of the Third Estate, who favored sweeping reforms, were seated on his left (the côté gauche). In legislative assemblies in Continental Europe, the more conservative members are still usually seated to the president's right. The terms "right wing" and "left wing" come from military usage."