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More on "left"

Posted by Bruce Kahl on May 18, 2004

In Reply to: Out-of-the-left-field thinker posted by Bruce Kahl on May 18, 2004

: : : Please tell me what really means an
: : : out-of-the-left-field thinker, where this phrase derives.
: : : I read about in a papaer from Havard Business School, March 2004 about IBM:
: : : ...managers,... who challenge assumtions, who are unconventional, out-of-the-left-field thinkers.
: : : Thank you!

: : The meaning is pretty much the same as "out of the blue", that is, "from an unexpected direction", or "without an obvious logical precedent", or "unorthodox". The inclusion of "left" in the expression adds to the strangeness implied.

: : The phrase seems to be related to "left field", a fielding position in baseball, but I don't really see the connection. In baseball, balls come out of left field all the time... just as often as they come out of right field... so there's nothing unconventional about it. Maybe Roman farmers believed that only odd things came out of the "campus sinister". (I just made that up)

: Campus sinister!! I like that. Nice.

: See below for a previous discussion of campus sinister.

"Gauche" is from the French for left, awkward.
The left side of anything is often considered to be unlucky or bad, and our language reflects this.

A "left-handed compliment," one that is insincere, backhanded, or dubious, is not one you are happy to receive; a "left-handed oath" is one not intended to be binding.

"Sinister", L***n for left, suggests or threatens evil. Gauche is tactless, awkward and clumsy, but "droit", the French word for right, gives us adroit, "skillful," and dexter, the L**n for right, gives us dexterous (also meaning skillful). If you are ambidextrous, able to use both hands with equal facility, then, etymologically speaking, you have right hands on both sides (ambi-, "on both sides"). Left itself comes from Old English lyft, left, "weak, useless," since it names the hand which in most people is weaker.