My wife was scrolling through her news feed when she asked me “What’s a derecho?” I had no idea, though the context (something like “Destructive derecho brings 100 mph winds to Iowa”) implied a meteorological phenomenon, so I looked it up and found a Wikipedia page:

A derecho (/dəˈreɪtʃoʊ/ […]) is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms known as a mesoscale convective system.

Derecho comes from the Spanish word in adjective form for “straight” (or “direct”), in contrast with a tornado which is a “twisted” wind. The word was first used in the American Meteorological Journal in 1888 by Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs in a paper describing the phenomenon and based on a significant derecho event that crossed Iowa on 31 July 1877.

So now I know, but if it’s been around since 1888, how come I’ve never heard of it? How come the OED doesn’t have it (though the AHD does)? Questions, questions…

Incidentally, if you’ve ever wondered about -able vs. -ible, the M-W blog has a post about it.


  1. I first encountered the word (as far as I remember) in 2012, when I experienced the derecho in Washington, DC. I was outside with a friend when his takeout food was blown out of his hands. Fortunately we suffered no effects more serious than lots of grit in our eyes. There’s a beer named after it.

  2. As Keith Ivey says, the June 2012 event is what brought the term into general usage, although perhaps only for people who (like me) lived in the path of the storm:

    “The June 2012 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest derecho was one of the deadliest and most destructive fast-moving severe thunderstorm complexes in North American history… It resulted in a total of 22 deaths, millions of power outages across the entire affected region, and a damage total of US$2.9 billion…”

  3. And:

    “On June 29, 2012, a derecho of historic proportions struck the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic states. The derecho traveled for 700 miles, impacting 10 states and Washington, D.C… Unfortunately, 13 people were killed by the extreme winds, mainly by falling trees. An estimated 4 million customers lost power for up to a week…”

    It was a very big deal when it happened, not only because of the death and destruction but because it was so strange. We are used to violent summer thunderstorms with downed trees, torrential rain, flash flooding, and power outages – but they are almost always local affairs. The idea of a wave of thunderstorms traveling hundreds of miles before smashing into us was new and unsettling. I’ve lived in the Washington DC area for over 50 years and I’d never heard of a derecho until 2012.

  4. I always mix up Margaret Drabble and Officer Dibble. Unless it’s Margaret Dribble and Officer Dabble.

  5. They don’t occur with nearly as much frequency as tornadoes, but you may recall the 2012 derecho. Thirteen people died and some suburbs of Washington, D.C., I know, didn’t have power restored for days.

  6. They don’t occur with nearly as much frequency as tornadoes, but you may recall the 2012 derecho.

    I don’t, obviously, but those in its path do. The question is, even if they’re not that frequent, why were they never heard of until 2012 (except by specialists and weather aficionados)? There must have been some other way of referring to them, and then somebody decided “derecho” was a cool word and used it, and it caught on. And now it’s used in news stories as though it had been familiar from time out of mind.

  7. David Eddyshaw says

    To a Spanish speaker it is presumably a fairly transparent analogue of tornado; might the catching on of the term have to do with greater salience of the Spanish language in public discourse in the US? (assuming that there is such a greater acceptability, which is hard for a foreigner to tell.)

  8. Tout droit, sempre dritto, rechtdoor — so often the expression for “straight ahead” includes the word for “right.” Why?

  9. John Cowan says

    somebody decided “derecho” was a cool word and used it, and it caught on

    Well, yes, but rather longer ago than you might suppose. Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs was born in Holstein (then Danish) in 1836 and emigrated to Iowa in 1860, where he became a professor of both chemistry and modern languages, but also head of the Iowa Weather Service.

    He published “Tornadoes and Derechos” about the Iowa derecho of July 31, 1877 in the American Meteorological Journal for November 1888. He distinguishes for the first time the two types of storms, and says that while hitherto he has used squall for the second type, he now thinks it necessary to introduce derecho, the straight-blowing wind, by explicit analogy with tornado, the twisting wind.

    He then spends most of the article criticizing the work of John P. Finley of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, not only for failing to distinguish between tornadoes and other storms, but for accpting sensational newspaper accounts without checking them and so reporting perhaps two orders of magnitude more storms than had actually occurred. But no matter, his true work was done.

  10. ‘Rett fram’ for straight on in Norwegian too, although right is ‘høyre’.

  11. I’m among those who also had never heard of ‘derecho’ until the 2012 event. Contra J. Cowan, I don’t think the word had ‘caught on’ before that. The Washington Post ran a number of stories that explained at some length what a derecho was, on the assumption that most readers would not know it.

    No doubt there were derechos/derechoes before then, but perhaps only very occasionally, and in places like Iowa, which we east coasters know little of (except briefly, every four years).

    I think David E is probably right that the fact it’s a cool-sounding Spanish word gave it a little extra oomph.

  12. Well, yes, but rather longer ago than you might suppose.

    I don’t know why you think that, since the information is right there in the post. I was not talking about when it was invented but when it came into common usage (if that’s where it is). So far nobody has said they knew about it before 2012, whatever contributions the estimable Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs may have made.

  13. Tout droit, sempre dritto, rechtdoor — so often the expression for “straight ahead” includes the word for “right.” Why?

    Good question; it came up here in 2014.

  14. Jen in Edinburgh says

    It’s lurking in English, too – you can go right down the street until you get to something that’s right ahead of you.

  15. Conrad, 2014:

    Incidentally, there is quite a good essay on left and right:

    Robert Hertz, ‘The Pre-Eminence of the Right Hand: A Study in Religious Polarity’ (orig. in French, 1909), in Rodney Needham, ed. Right and Left: Essays on Dual Symbolic Classification (Chicago and London: U of C Press, 1973)

    Conrad knows and has read just about everything. I suppose he’s too busy to comment, now he’s a professor.

  16. I have the (unverifiable, of course) notion that I’ve been familiar with the word for decades. From crossword puzzles, perhaps? It doesn’t seem to have been used in the popular press before the 2012 event.

    This page claims that the word was only revived by meteorologists in 1987, which would explain why it’s not in older dictionaries:

    A defining excerpt from Hinrich’s paper may be seen in this figure that shows a derecho crossing Iowa on July 31, 1877. “Derecho” was adopted to a limited extent by the meteorological community during the 1880s. However, the word disappeared from use for nearly a century until it was resurrected by NOAA National Severe Storms Forecast Center (predecessor of the Storm Prediction Center) meteorologists Robert Johns and William Hirt in a 1987 paper that described derechos over the central and eastern United States.

  17. David Eddyshaw says

    Indulging in Wild Mass Guessing, I wonder if the “straight” sense derives from the sense of the right side as propitious (and vice versa, hurrah-words like “straight” could get adopted to describe “right side.”)

    In principle, this should be testable: offhand, I can’t think of a classical Greek word for “right-hand” being used for “straight” (but I haven’t thought very hard.)

    The association of “right-hand” in Africa usually seems to be with eating, specifically, rather than straightness or general all-rightness (not that I have anything negative to say about eating, a practice of which I am very fond.)

  18. Emerson, Nature (1836), chapter 4 (“Language”): “Words are signs of natural facts. [. . .] Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. Right means straight; wrong means twisted.”

    And yes, “right” in the orthogonal sense of “right angle” does seem to have moral connotations that “right” in the dextro- sense doesn’t. Compare Milton’s “To Mr. Cyriack Skinner Upon His Blindness”:

    Yet I argue not
    Against heavns hand or will, nor bate a jot
    Of heart or hope, but still bear vp and steer
    Right onward.

  19. δεξιός and its family (which I think are the only Greek words for “right side/hand”) get extended to mean “dexterous” and also “propitious, friendly” (because the right side is the side of good omens and/or because extending the right hand signals friendship), but they’re never synonymous with ὀρθός or εὐθύς, to my knowledge.

  20. David Eddyshaw says

    I thought it was the left side that was propitious for the Greeks? (which is why I roped them in.)

  21. Wasn’t the Greek use of εὐώνυμος (“auspicious, well-omened”) for left a euphemism/attempt to cheat fate, since in fact the left side was _not_ propitious?

  22. David Eddyshaw says

    Perhaps not (though I have seen this stated):

    Maybe the idea that the Greeks thought “left” was propitious arose simply from misunderstanding a euphemism.

    [@anhweol: ah. Great minds]

  23. David Eddyshaw says

    Ransacking my memory, I got this from Fordyce’s commentary on Catullus 45 (Acmen Septimius suos amores) where Amor signals his approval of the lovers by sneezing left and right repeatedly; the idea floated being that the god was sneezing favourable omens for Greek Acme and Roman Septimius. But looking it up, I see that the omens are the opposite of what I remembered:

    For the Greeks a sneeze on the right was a particularly lucky sign: Plut. Them. 13. There is some evidence that a sneeze on the left was unlucky […]
    In Roman divination the left was the lucky side (Cic, de Div. ii. 82: a favourable omen might be called sinistrum even if it occurred on the right), but the Romans took over the Greek belief which made the right the lucky side and inconsistently combined it with their native tradition: so while dexter never means “unlucky”, laeuus and sinister may imply either good luck (Aen. ii. 693 […]) or bad (Aen. x. 275 […])

    So I was Very Wrong.

  24. David Eddyshaw says

    My general hypothesis might still work, though my Greek “evidence” has unfortunately evaporated. Is the straight=right thing found outside Europe? And if it is, does it typically go with straight=right=propitious?

  25. Thanks for yet again fixing my HTML, Language. I’m getting worse & worse.

  26. I’m sure I wasn’t familiar with derecho until well into adulthood, so the 2012 event was the earliest I could have encountered it. I suspect that all the D. C. people (like Bloix, Kieth Ivey, and the national media) picked it up first, and it spread from there.

    In fourth grade, I remember that in fourth grade our Silver Burdett science textbooks (purchased by the district the previous year, and many of the teachers disliked the newly standardized curriculum that they had to follow fairly closely) covered Earth science, including weather. I memorized the list of names for different wind speeds, and although I cannot no longer remember most of them (which is unusual for me; I can still usually call up something I committed to memory decades ago, not perfectly, but generally pretty close), I do recall that a fresh breeze is strong enough to shake small trees, and the difference between a strong wind and stiff wind was that a strong wind might carry away your belongings, but a stiff wind was actually hard to walk against.

  27. Francis Murphy says

    Will you contact OED to have them add derecho to their lists? I am from Chicago and experience the phenomena from time to time.

  28. εὐώνυμος and ἀριστερός are both euphemisms, which mostly replaced the inherited IE terms λαιός and σκαιός (laevus, scaevus). I don’t know why there were two IE terms or whether there was any distinction between them. Sinister too may originally have meant something like “profitable”, if it’s from the same root as Skt. sanoti “obtain”.

    Greek (and Etruscan) augurs faced north, while Roman augurs faced south, so a propitious bird in the East would have been “right” for the former and “left” for the latter.

  29. Lars (the original one) says

    Danish (and I think all of Scandinavian) has ret and the LG import riktig for ‘straight/correct.’ (‘Straight’ can also be lige).

    Højre for ‘right hand side’ is the more convenient side, venstre is the more propitious/advantageous/friendly (probably a euphemism, to the root of ven = ‘friend’).

  30. Swedish has rakt fram ‘straight ahead’.

  31. Lars (the original one) says

    That’s usually lige ud in current Danish, but ret frem is not dead, it’s just pining for the fjords. But yes, I forgot about rak which is to the same root.

  32. PlasticPaddy says

    Would it be possible to derive venstre from the other *wan root, i.e., lack/deficiency?

  33. Lars (the original one) says

    Wiktionary s.v. *winistraz just says

    probably a taboo formation from *winiz (“friend”), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *wen- (“to strive for, wish for, desire, love”).

    And there is agreement in the other places I checked. So there is room for alternatives, I guess.

  34. August 12, 2020 at 1:35 pm
    ‘Rett fram’ for straight on in Norwegian too, although right is ‘høyre’.

    Original Lars & juha, As punishment for not acknowledging my comment of August 12 here is Rex Rudi playing live his own composition, Rett Fram.

  35. So much talk about right-ness as a virtue should not continue without mention of ‘rta’ in Sanscrit and ‘arete’ in Greek, both suggesting that right as a virtue-word preceeded right as a direction.

  36. German recht- means “right”; nowadays the indication of direction, including political orientation, is its main meaning while its use for the concepts “correct, just” belongs to literary / slightly archaising language; those meanings are mostly covered by the derived adjectives richtig “correct” and gerecht “just”. For “straight”, a different word is used, gerade; “straight ahead” is geradeaus.
    On Danish lige ud: That also looks like a loan or calque from LG; the equivalent in East Frisian Platt is liek uut .

  37. @Phil Jennings: I don’t understand what you are trying to say here – the Greek and Sanskrit word aren’t cognate with “right” or Latin rectus, so what do they prove?

  38. David Eddyshaw says

    In Western Oti-Volta “right” as in “hand” is throughout clearly based on “eat” (Kusaal ditʋŋ, cf di “eat”) and unconnected with any words for “straight” or “correct” etc; other Oti-Volta branches have various different forms for “right(hand)” unrelated to “eat” (or to each other, as far as I can see) but still having no connection with “straight” or “correct.” AFAIK there aren’t any local forms of divination where either left or right is especially propitious (casting lots is the usual type of divination) but my knowledge of these things is very far from extensive.

    Hatters out there will know the situation in Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, Turkish …

    The Hebrew root ymn looks rather as if it might be related to ʔmn; if there is a real connection it could mean that the right=correct association is at least not just some SAE thing.

  39. the situation in Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, Turkish



    уң (uŋ) opposite: сул (sul)
    adjective /adverb (adj and adv have the same form in Tatar—and in Turkic in general, I believe)

    1. прям, перен правый (lit., fig.) right; right-hand; right-wing 2. лицевой (сторона
    рубашки) (right side (of a shirt), obverse) 3. пр удачный, успешный // удачно, успешно
    (successful; successvully)

    туры (turı)
    пр 1. в разн зн прямой //прямо (straight) 2. сущ мат прямая (straight line) 3. перен
    прямой, прямодушный // прямодушно, правдиво (fig) frank, frankly; sincere, sincerely 4. перен
    правильный, верный // правильно, верно (fig.) right, true (anser, etc) 5. перен справедливый
    (fig) just, fair 6. перен преданный, преданно (fig) devoted, staunch 7. пр гнедой (масть
    лошади)(lit) bay (as in a ‘bay horse’)


    Uzbek has chap ‘left’ (clearly an Iranian loan čap)

  40. Russian (and AFAIK Slavic in general) goes with other European languages in linking the ideas of “right (side)” pravyj with the ideas of “correctness” (also in the derived adjective pravil’nyj “correct”) and the ideas of “law” and “rights” (pravo, cf. German “Recht”, English “right(s)”, French “droit” etc.), “justice” (spravedlivost’, cf. German “Gerechtigkeit”), but also encompasses “truth” (pravda). At least in Russian, the concept of straightness is unrelated (pryamo).

  41. @Hans: The word gerade is used in (primarily inorganic) chemistry as part of the labeling system used to describe representations of the symmetry point groups of molecular compounds.* There are rules for naming the representations according to their dimensions and sign changes under certain operations. These are called the “Mullikan labels,” named for the Nobel-prize-winning American chemist Robert Mullikan (not to be confused with the Nobel-prize-winning American physicist Robert Millikan). One of the naming rules is that if the point group includes a total three-dimensional space inversion, each representation is labeled by whether it is unchanged (“gerade,” “g”) or changes sign (“ungerade,” “u”) under the inversion operation. The German words are reasonable enough, but I have no idea where they came from. Mullikan spoke fluent German, but why would he have picked those German words to label the representations?

    * In his textbook, which we used in his year-long abstract algebra class, my sometime advisor Michael Artin** said that as he was working on writing the book, he had thought about leaving group representations out, because they were too difficult. However, he decided that if chemists could teach the subject to undergraduates, mathematicians certainly could. The chapter on representation theory was also a very elegant (and very important) culmination of the first half of the course, the half covering groups and linear spaces. (The culmination of the second half of the course, covering rings and fields, was Galois Theory, which is even more elegant, but which does not have a lot of practical applications, even within the field of mathematics.)

    ** I happened to be thinking last night about how many advisors I had had as a student. I counted that by the most inclusive measure I had, in my eight years at MIT, nine advisors. Artin was briefly my undergraduate advisor in the math department, after my previous advisor, Gian-Carlo Rota, died suddenly.

  42. PlasticPaddy says

    Short answer: mulliken credits Georg Placzek, who published in German.

  43. @Brett: I never heard of that specific usage, but I only had two years of Chemistry at school, so that doesn’t mean much. (Chemistry was one of the few subjects I never felt at home with and I de-selected it as soon as I could.) Maybe Placzek was somehow influenced by the use of gerade / ungerade in Mathematics, where they mean “even / odd”?

  44. @Hans: Of course! That has to be it, since in English too even and odd are use to denote whether something is invariant of changes sign under a transformation. So in the representation theory of subgroups of O(3), gerade means “even under space inversion,” and ungerade means “odd under space inversion.”

    And, now that I consider this, I think I already figured this out once before, then apparently forgot it again.

  45. Trond Engen says

    changes sign under a transformation

    This is what actually earned Edward the Unready his name.

  46. I think I already figured this out once before, then apparently forgot it again.

    This happens to me all the time.

  47. @Hans. (Right, Rta, Arete) I thought they were.

  48. Lars Mathiesen says

    Danish uses lige and ulige which looks like a calque from German.

    Swedish has jämn and udda. The former is obviously the same as E even (but I have clearly internalized too many sound changes), the second is from udd = ‘point’ and was loaned into ME. (The Swedes say).

    I learned to call permutations odd or even — are we talking about odd/even permutations of (orthogonal) basis vectors in the O(3) case? (I’m sure I learned about something like that, possibly related to the three-finger rule for the sign of cross products).

  49. @Trond Engen: Do you mean Aethelred, or am I missing something?

  50. Trond Engen says

    I wish you did, but it’s pure brainfart. Not to turn into Alfred the Confessor, but I even stopped and thought it didn’t look right, but couldn’t find anything wrong.

  51. John Cowan says

    I have been dealing lately in odd and even streams (lazy lists). When an odd stream is created, its first element is generated at once; an even stream doesn’t realize any of its elements until they are requested. The etymology is that an odd stream always contains an odd number of constructors. See Philip Wadler, Walid Taha, and David MacQueen, “How to add laziness to a strict language without even being odd”, 1998 ACM SIGPLAN Workshop on ML, pp. 24ff (PS format).

  52. Russian (and AFAIK Slavic in general) goes with other European languages in linking the ideas of “right (side)” pravyj with the ideas of “correctness” (also in the derived adjective pravil’nyj “correct”) and the ideas of “law” and “rights” (pravo, cf. German “Recht”, English “right(s)”, French “droit” etc.), “justice” (spravedlivost’, cf. German “Gerechtigkeit”), but also encompasses “truth” (pravda). At least in Russian, the concept of straightness is unrelated (pryamo).

    In FYLOSC there’s no link to “right side” (desno). Prȁvo has the “right”, “correct”, “truthful” meanings (similarly, ispravno), and also the “straight ahead”, “upright” (also uspravno), “direct”, “in a direct manner” ones (on the coast, drito is very commonly used for the latter ones, too). Právo can mean “law” or “a right”. Pravda is “justice” (there’s also the archaic pravica), and “truth” is istina.

  53. Lars Mathiesen says

    John, are people paying you to work with that kind of stuff? And here I’m trying to get Ansible to generate its own inventory with VMware calls, which is also fun but…

  54. @gwenllian: Yes, I forgot that Southern Slavic keeps using the word for “right” inherited from PIE. (Or maybe part of my brain remembered and that’s why I hedged with “AFAIK”.) I think that had even come up in discussion here at the Hattery…
    And this shows that in Slavic, the meaning “correct” of prav- came first, and the directional meaning in those Slavic languages that have it derives from “correct”.

  55. John Cowan says

    John, are people paying you to work with that kind of stuff?

    Alas, no. It’s part of my role as chief cook and bottle-washer for Scheme, which in its latest incarnation of R7RS-large has both middleweight odd streams (improper lists with a procedure in the tail to be called when you need more) and heavyweight even streams.

  56. Korean 오른 oreun |wolun| “right” comes from earlier 올ᄒᆞᆫ olhån |wolhon|, the attributive ~ㄴ/은 form of the adjective 올ᄒᆞ다 olhåda |wolhota|, whose shortened form 옳다 olta |wolhta| “to be correct” is still used in Modern Korean. Modern Korean 옳은 oreun |wolhun| “correct” is pronounced identically to 오른 oreun |wolun| “right”. Here I’m showing the Revised Romanization of Korean in italics and the Yale Romanization of Korean in pipes, except that I’ve added å in the former for the obsolete vowel letter ㆍ which may have represented [ʌ] in Middle Korean and is preserved as [ɒ] in conservative Jeju Korean.

    An old-fashioned expression 바른 bareun |palun| for “right” is even more transparent, being identical form to 바른 bareun |palun| “straight”, “correct”, from the adjective 바르다 bareuda |paluta| “to be straight”, “to be correct”. 바른손 bareunson |palunswon| is an old-fashioned way to refer to the “right hand”, which is usually 오른손 oreunson |wolunswon| nowadays.

    On the contrary, 왼 oen |woyn| “left” is from the adjective 외다 oeda |woyta| which is rarely used today but according to the dictionary means “to be switched between right and left, making something difficult to use” or “to be twisted in mind”. Other sources say that it is an old expression equivalent to 그르다 geureuda |kuruta|, “to be wrong”.

    So there you have it—in Korean, “right” means “correct” or “straight”, and “left” means “wrong”.

    Odd numbers are 홀수 holsu |hwolqswu| and even numbers are 짝수 jjaksu |ccakswu|, where 수 su |swu| is Sino-Korean 數 “number”. 홀- hol |hwol| is a prefix for “alone, without a pair”, and in 홀수 holsu the ㅅ s is pronounced as fortis ㅆ ss (Yale romanization indicates this reinforcement with |q|). 짝 jjak |ccak| means “one of a pair” or “one’s mate”. There are no everyday equivalents for “odd” and “even” that are used freely as adjectives (you use the nouns for “odd number” and “even number”), but 홀- hol |hwol| and 짝- jjak |ccak| may be used like prefixes to form some specialist terms like 홀함수 holhamsu |hwolhamswu| “odd function” and 짝함수 jjakhamsu |ccakhamswu| “even function” (where 함수 hamsu |hamswu| is Sino-Korean 函數 “(mathematical) function”.

  57. If anyone’s still interested in “derecho”, there’s an interesting article at–The-First-Time-Storm-Complex-Was-Called-Derecho–How-It-Is-Connected-to-Our-Area-572105601.html

    (wlfi is a TV station in Indiana; it’s not a typo for wifi)

  58. Last week this happened:

    “Midwest derecho devastates Iowa corn crop…More than 10 million acres, or 43 percent, of the state’s crops were affected…

    “On Monday evening, a violent, fast-moving thunderstorm complex known as derecho tore a 700-mile path from Nebraska to Indiana… The destructive storms laid siege to more than 10 million acres of Iowa’s corn and soybean crop, devastating farmers and capping off what has already been a difficult few years of farming for many… Steve Bowen, a meteorologist and head of catastrophe insight for the reinsurer Aon, said the damage toll to agriculture alone is likely to reach the billions of dollars…

    “[I]n Cedar Rapids, “Nearly every home has damage. Most big trees in the city fell. Most local businesses are closed. Every business is damaged. Most roads are impassable,” wrote resident Ben Kaplan… Winds were clocked at 112 mph in Midway, Iowa, about 10 miles north of Cedar Rapids…

    “Carl Jardon, the vice president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA), said in a statement that the derecho affected the entire width of the state. “Harvest will begin shortly and one-third of Iowa’s crop are flattened…”

    “Derechos are notoriously difficult to predict. The atmospheric ingredients for them are in place during much of the summer, yet those ingredients are rarely combined in the necessary way to generate such a fierce storm system.”

  59. David Marjanović says

    fast-moving thunderstorm complex […] laid siege


  60. Errol Wall says

    Remember what Jesus said: ‘Goats on the left, sheep on the right’ (Matthew 25:33).

    Jesus also told Peter that if he wanted to catch fish do it from the right side of the boat. They did and filled the boat with fish.

    John 21:6 (NIV) … He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.”

    Origin of Left & Right…I have often wondered why it is that Conservatives are called the “right” and Liberals are called the “left”.

    By chance I stumbled upon this verse in the Bible:

    Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NIV) – “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.” It surely can’t get any simpler than that.

  61. Origin of Left & Right…I have often wondered why it is that Conservatives are called the “right” and Liberals are called the “left”.

    Evan Andrews:

    Today the terms “left wing” and “right wing” are used as symbolic labels for liberals and conservatives, but they were originally coined in reference to the physical seating arrangements of politicians during the French Revolution.

    The split dates to the summer of 1789, when members of the French National Assembly met to begin drafting a constitution. The delegates were deeply divided over the issue of how much authority King Louis XVI should have, and as the debate raged, the two main factions each staked out territory in the assembly hall. The anti-royalist revolutionaries seated themselves to the presiding officer’s left, while the more conservative, aristocratic supporters of the monarchy gathered to the right.

  62. Hat, in related usage you can see that the, ah, domestic in this Currier lithograph of the death of George Washington is (unlike the white folks) a sans-culotte.

    Moving right on up, Barbara Will’s Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma (Columbia University Press, 2011) includes a photograph of Faÿ’s far-right Swiss friend Gonzague de Reynold dressing the part in what the list of illustrations calls “eighteenth-century breeches.”

  63. David Marjanović says

    Only in the US are “liberal” and “left” conflated anymore. Elsewhere these terms diverged in the mid-late 19th century to the extent that they now lie on separate axes, much like this.

  64. @David Eddyshaw:

    To a Spanish speaker it is presumably a fairly transparent analogue of tornado

    Not really; tornar (‘return, come back; turn’) is archaic or literary, having been largely replaced by volver and girar. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts few speakers are spontaneously aware of the connection.

  65. Yeah, it had never occurred to me (and I used to be fluent in Spanish).

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