'The Mystery of the Prime Numbers', Secrets of Creation vol. 1 by Matthew Watkins

"Il y a du gauche!"


I recently spent a very interesting afternoon in the local public library's reference section, and would like to share my discoveries with you.


A couple of years ago, my friend Marcus happened to mention that snailshells mostly spiral clockwise, but that there are a few species of snails whose shells spiral the other way. These, he told me, are called "sinistra" snails. I initially misheard this as "sinister snails", which seemed like quite an amusing concept - but then Marcus explained that the English word "sinister" comes from the Latin word "sinistra" which simply means "left" (as in "left-handed").


This connection had got me thinking - I found out that the Latin word for right is dexter, suggesting "dexterity", "dexterous", etc., and started to wonder if other languages had such connotations associated with their words for left and right.


I had always assumed that "right" (the opposite of "left") and "right" (the opposite of

"wrong") only coincided accidentally, and that there was nothing deeper to it (much as "left" = opposite of "right" AND = past tense of "leave"). However, I remembered that the Dutch word for "right" is recht, and it seemed possible that there was a connection with the words "correct", "rectify", etc. There were also the geometic associations - "rectangle", "right angle", etc. and the legal associations - "civil rights", "the right to remain silent", etc.


So what follows is not a theory, or anything of my own imagining. I have simply looked up "left" and "right" in a number of foreign language dictionaries, and then looked the foreign words up in the "reverse" dictionaries to find out what other meanings these words have.


Note: I apologise to any native speakers of these languages for any mistakes I have made in terms of incorrect forms of words, missing accents, umlauts and all those other wonderful typographical symbols that the Scandinavians seem so fond of.


Note added 26/07/04: Anyone who finds this interesting ought to have a look at the award-winning book Right Hand, Left Hand by Chris McManus which I was unaware of when I originally put this piece together. Also relevant may be certain sections on left and right brain hemispheres in the intriguing book I am currently reading: The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain.


German: left = linke, right = recht


linkisch (adj) - awkward, clumsy, ungainly

mean, nasty - as in "er is ein ganz linker Kerl" (he is a nasty piece of work)

linke (noun) - deceiver, swindler, crook, homosexual and wrong - as in "linken fuB zuerst aufstehen" (to get out of bed on the wrong - literally left side), and

"die linke seite des stoffes, der tapete, etc." (wrong side of wallpaper, fabric, etc.)


recht - just, due, true, real, legitimate, correct, proper, well, privilege, power, law, justice

rechtkeit - legality, lawfulness, honesty

rechtschaffen - honest, righteous



Dutch: left = linkse, right = rechts


links - sinister, awkward, cackhanded, hamfisted, maladroit

"links laten liggen" - "to give someone the left shoulder" (to ignore them)

linksheid - awkwardness


recht - law, claim, title, prerogative, privilege, authority, power, straight, direct, plain, just, fair

"met recht en reden" - for a good reason

"tot zijn recht komen" - to stand out well, look well

rechtdoor - directly, unswervingly, frankly, candidly

rechtschapen - honest, upright, honourable, virtuous



French: left = gauche, right = droit


gauche - awkward, clumsy, skew-whiffed, warped

"gauche de la voie" - crookedness, lateral buckling

gauchi - twisted

gauchir - to distort, to misrepresent

gauchissant - having a false bearing

"Il y a du gauche" (literally "there is left") "This isn't Kosher!", "I smell a rat!", "I have my doubts about this!"

"Emmerder quelqu'un jusqu' a la gauche" - "to go out of one's way to be a pain in the neck"


droit (noun) - law

droit (adjective) - upright, straight, sound, sane

droitement - honesty

droite - straight line

droiture - uprightness, rectitude of character



Italian - left = sinistro/a, right = destro/a


sinistro - crooked, sinister, ominous, inauspicious, grim, lurid, contrary, unfavourable

sinistrato -injured, having suffered disaster, bombed-out

sinistro (noun) - accident, mishap, disaster


destro - skilful, dexterous, propitious, favourable, suitable, clever, able, adroit



Spanish - left = izquierda/o, right = derecha/o


izquierdo - crooked, twisted


derecho - straight, direct, upright, honest, lucky (+ all the usual legal conotations)

"no hay derecho" - it isn't fair (literally "there is not right")


Portuguese - left = esquerda/o, right = direita/o


esquerdo - awkward


direito (adjective) - honest, just, proper, straight, correct, direct

direito (noun) - legal right



Romanian - left = stanga, right = dreapta


stangaciu - awkward, uncouth, unhandy, gawky


drept = straight, just, direct

dreptate = right, justice, reason


Latin - left = sinister, right = dexter


sinister - awkward, wrong, perverse, improper, unlucky, adverse, unfavourable, bad


dexter - handy, dexterous, skilful, suitable, fitting, lucky, favourable, propitious, fortunate



Welsh - left = chwith, right = deheuedd


chwith = strange, sad

"O Chwith" = the wrong way

chwidthdod - strangeness, sense of loss

chwithig - awkward


deheuig - skilfull, dexterous



Greek - left = aristefoz, right = dexioh

aristefoz - boding ill, ominous, awkward, erring, sinister


dexioh - fortunate, dexterous, ready, skilful, clever, courteous, kindly



Russian - left = &^%$, right = &$%*&^$%

[sorry, no Cyrilic alphabet font was available!]


left - illegal, unofficial

      - wrong (in the sense of the wrong side of the wallpaper, or getting up on the wrong side of the bed)


right (noun) - law, truth, uprightness, just rule, regulation, correctness, regularity

        (adjective) righteous, upright, proper



Polish - left = lewy, right = prawa


lewy - false, phony. lewa = trick


prawa (noun) - truth

prawdziwy = true, real, authentic

prawidlowy = regular, proper, correct

prawny = legal, lawful, legitimate, rightful

prawoslawny = orthodox

prawosc = honesty, integrity, rectitude, righteousness, uprightness



Some final observations:


I am not a linguist, philologist or etymologist (I'm a mathematician/musician), so this may already have been studied and written about extensively. However, as I have been alive for 30 years and taken an active interest in language, history and culture without ever having noticed this, I think it's safe to assume that this is not a widely-known phenomenon.


Scandinavian languages, incidentally, appear to have no value-judgements associated for their "left/right" words. Having checked Swedish, Danish and Norwegian dictionaries, it appears that these words ("vanster/hoger", "venstre/hojre", "venstre/hogre") are purely directional*. I have no idea why this is. My understanding of western languages is that they split roughly into three families: Romantic (Latin-based, like Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, etc.), Germanic (German, English, Dutch, etc.) and Slavic, which includes all of the Scandinavian languages. But I believe Russian is also part of the Slavic family, and as we have seen, Russian does make left-right value judgements.


Hungarian ("bal/jobb"), and the now-defunct Cornish language ("cleth"/"dyghow") also appear to lack left-right value judgements. (Note: I have since been informed by a Hungarian correspondent that this is not the case!)


I was also quite surprised to find that Welsh (among the most ancient of European languages) also had these associations in its "left/right" words.


Several languages have the usual "positive" connotations for their "right", but lack "negative" connotations for their "left":


Finnish - left = vasen, right = oikea


oikea - true, genuine, just, correct, real, true proper, upright, orthodox, authentic and, as usual, a lot of related words with legal associations


oikaista - straighten, correct, rectify, put right



Slovaka - left = l'avy, right = pravy


pravy = real,

pravda = truth (wasn't this the name of the official newspaper of the USSR?)

pravdaze = of course

pravdlo = honest



Turkish - left = sol/a, right = sag


The only negative connotation for sol which I could find is the expression "sol tar afindan kalmak" which means "to get out of bed on the wrong side". This is a very curious expression which seems to occur in a wide selection of languages.


sag = alive, living, healthy, well

sagin lang=EN-GB style='font-family:"Arial";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-ansi-language: EN-GB'> = exact, precise

saglam = sound, strong, well-built, well-made, secure, healthy, strong, reliable, trustworthy, dependable

saglik = health


One might think that English is among these languages, as the only obvious "non-directional"* meaning of "left" is the past-tense "to leave" (as in "Elvis has left the building").


However, having checked an English dictionary's entry for "left" I found the following:


[origin] Middle English luft, lift, left, Old English left, lyft (attested only in lyftadl, paralysis "left-disease") akin to Middle Dutch luft, lucht, weak, useless.


left-handed adj.4. Awkward; clumsy; maladroit. 5. Obliquely derisive; dubious; insincere: a left-handed compliment. 6. Of, pertaining to, or born of a morganatic marriage [a marriage of royalty to someone of a lower social position]


The same dictionary revealed the following in its extensive entry for adjective form of "right":


1. In accordance with or conformable to justice, law, morality, or similar principle: right action.

2. In accordance with fact, reason, or truth; correct: the right answer

3. Fitting, proper, appropriate: the right one for the job

4. Most favourable, desirable, or convenient: the right time to act

5. In a satisfactory state or condition; in good order: I'll put it right in a moment.

6. Mentally sound or normal; sane: in one's right mind

7. Physically normal or healthy; well: Are you feeling quire right?

8. Intended to be worn facing outwards or towards an observer: the right side of the cloth

9a. Archaic. Genuine; not spurious.

9b. Informal. Real; thorough: I felt a right fool

13. Archaic. Straight; uncurved; direct: a right line


We also have the words righteous, correct, rectify, rectitude, direct, right-angle, rectangle, legal rights, maladroit, right-hand man.


It occured to me that the word "ruler" with its dual meaning of both "tool to draw straight lines with" and "the person who makes/upholds the rules" might somehow relate to the word "right". The origin of "rule" is given as


"Middle English riule, reule, from Old French, from Latin regula straight stick, ruler, rule, pattern]".


So "rule" and "ruler" are related to "regular". Taking into account all of the above, it seems quite likely that "regular" is linked to the Germanic recht. If this is the case then we can add to our list "regulate", "regal", "regalia", "regale", "royal", "royalty", "regent", "regiment".


Here, then, are the complete lists of associated words:



awkward, clumsy, ungainly, mean, nasty, wrong,sinister, cackhanded, hamfisted, maladroit, crooked, twisted, sinister, ominous, inauspicious, grim, lurid, contrary, unfavourable, injured, having suffered disaster, bombed-out, uncouth, unhandy, gawky, perverse, improper, unlucky, adverse, unfavourable, bad, boding ill, erring, strange, sad, illegal, unofficial, obliquely derisive, dubious, insincere, weak, useless


deceiver, swindler, crook, homosexual, crookedness, to distort, to misrepresent, accident, mishap, disaster, strangeness, sense of loss, the wrong way, paralysis





just, due, true, real, legitimate, correct, proper, well, honest, righteous, straight, direct, plain, fair, unswerving, frank, candid, upright, honourable, virtuous, sound, sane, skilful, dexterous, propitious, favourable, suitable, clever, able, adroit, lucky, ready, courteous, kindly, orthodox, alive, healthy, living, exact, precise, strong, well-built, well-made, eloquent, reliable, trustworthy, dependable, fitting, appropriate, desirable, convenient, genuine, thorough, regular, royal


privilege, power, law, justice, legality, lawfulness, honesty, claim, title, prerogative, authority, to look well, straight line, uprightness, rectitude of character, truth, reason, regularity, regulation, correctness, health, royalty


It's worth remembering that the left and right sides of the body are connected to the right and left brain hemispheres, respectively. Although the widely held belief that "left brain = logic/language/mathematics, right brain = intuition/visualisation/creative expression" has been superseded by a more subtle understanding of these matters, we can safely conclude that all of the word associations above tend to regard the left brain hemisphere as superior to the right. This suggests to me that some fundamental imbalance in a certain sector of humanity got encoded in our languages a very long time ago. I won't speculate further - you will have to make your own mind up about this.


For further reading, I'd suggest looking into Robert Graves' writings on "solar" and "lunar" consciousness.


Someone recently reminded me of the superstition involving throwing a pinch of salt over one's left shoulder, and claimed that part of this was the fact that the devil resided on one's left shoulder.


The Irish language is the only one I have encountered whose left-related words have any even remotely 'desirable' associations. These are 'playful', 'crafty', and 'tricky'. If we consider the fact that the left-right duality apparent in all the other languages mentioned here could be related to a devil-god duality, then this suggests an earlier concept of the devil as a Pan-like trickster character, rather than the 100% evil anti-God which the devil has become in the Christian world.


The following is an excerpt from the extraordinary book VALIS by the science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick (Bantam, 1981). The book contains an appendix which is presented as the notebooks of the main character 'Horselover Fat' (clearly based on P.K. Dick himself). This character has undergone a psychosis and has been channelling information from a self-organising intelligence system known as VALIS. Points 47–51 of the appendix, discussing a sort of creation myth (with reference to Gnosticism) appear to be relevant here.


47. TWO SOURCE COSMOGONY: The One was and was-not, combined, and desired to separate the was-not from the was. So it generated a diploid sac which contained, like an eggshell, a pair of twins, each an androgyny, spinning in opposite directions (the Yin and Yang of Taoism, with the One as the Tao). The plan of the One was that both twins would emerge into being (wasness) simultaneously; however, motivated by a desire to be (which the One had implanted in both twins), the counterclockwise twin broke through the sac and separated prematurely; i.e. before full term. This was the dark or Yin twin. Therefore it was defective. At full term the wiser twin emerged. Each twin formed a unitary entelechy, a single living organism made of psyche and soma, still rotating in opposite directions to each other. The full term twin called Form I by Parmenides, advanced correctly through its growth stages, but the prematurely born twin, called Form II, languished.


The next step in the One's plan was that the Two would become the Many, through their dialectic interaction. From them as hyperuniverses they projected a hologram-like interface, which is the pluriform universe we creatures inhabit. The two sources were to intermingle equally in maintaining our universe, but Form II continued to languish toward illness, madness and disorder. These aspects she projected into our universe.


It was the One's purpose for our hologramatic universe to serve as a teaching instrument by which a variety of new lives advanced until ultimately they would be isomorphic with the One. However, the decaying condition of hyperuniverse II introduced malfactors which damaged our hologramatic universe. This is the origin orf entropy, undeserved suffering, chaos and death, as well as the Empire, the Black Iron Prison; in essence, the aborting of the proper health and growth of the life forms within the hologramatic universe. Also, the teaching function was grossly impaired, since only the signal from the hyperuniverse I was information-rich; that from II had become noise.


The psyche of hyperuniverse I sent a micro-form of itself into hyperuniverse II to attempt to heal it. The micro-form was apparent in our hologramatic universe as Jesus Christ. However, hyperuniverse II, being deranged, at once tormented, humiliated, rejected and finally killed the micro-form of the healing psyche of her healthy twin. After that, hyperuniverse II continued to decay into blind, mechanical, purposeless causal processes. It then became the task of Christ (more properly the Holy Spirit) to either rescue the lfie forms in the hologramatic universe, or abolish all influences on it emanating from II. Approaching its task with caution, it prepared to kill the deranged twin, since she cannot be healed; i.e. she will not allow herself to be healied because she does not understand that she is sick. This illness and madness pervades us and makes us idiots living in private, unreal worlds. The original plan of the One can only be realized now by the division of hyperuniverse I into two healthy hyperuniverses, which will transform the hologramatic universe into the successful teaching machine it was designed to be. We will experience this as the "Kingdom of God."


Within time, hyperuniverse II remains alive: "The Empire never ended. But in eternity, where the hyperuniverses exist, she has been killed - of necessity - by the healthy twin of hyperuniverse I, who is our champion. The One grieves for this death, since the One loved both twins; therefore the information of the Mind consists of a tragic tale of the death of a woman, the undertones of which generate anguish into all the creatures of the hologramatic universe without their knowing why. This grief will depart when the healthy twein undergoes mitosis and the "Kingdom of God" arrives. The machinery for this transformation - the procession within time fromt he Age of Iron to the Age of Gold - is at work now; in eternity it is already accomplished.


48. ON OUR NATURE. It is proper to say: we appear to be memory coils (DNA carriers capable of experience) in a computer-like thinking system which, although we have correctly recorded nd stored thousands of years of experiential information, and each of us possesses somewhat different deposits from all the other life forms, there is a malfunction - a failure - of memory retrieval. There lies the trouble in our particular subcircuit. "Salvation" through gnosis - more properly anamnesis (the loss of amnesia) - although it has individual significance for each of us - a quantum leap in perception, identity, cognition, understanding, world- and self-experience, including immortality - it has greater and further importance for the system as a whole, inasmuch as these memories are data needed by it and valuable to it, to its overall functioning.


Therefore it is in the process of self-repair, which includes: rebuilding our subcircuit via linear and orthogonal time changes, as well as continual signaling to us to stimulate blocked memory banks within us to stimulate blocked memory banks within us to fire and hence retrieve what is there.


The external information or gnosis, then consists of disinhibiting instructions, with the core content actually intrinsic to us - that is, already there (first observed by Plato; viz: that learning is a form of remembering).


The ancients possessed techniques (sacraments and rituals) used largely in the Greco-Roman mystery religions, including early Christianity, to induce firing and retrieval, mainly with a sense of its restorative value to the individuals; the Gnostics, however, correctly saw the ontological value of what they called the Godhead Itself, the total entity.


48. Two realms there are, upper and lower. The upper, derived from hyperuniverse I or Yang, Form I of Parmenides, is sentient and volitional. the lower realm, or Yin, Form II of Parmenides, is mechanical, driven by blind, efficient cause, deterministic and without intelligence, since it emanates from a dead source. In ancient times it was termed "astral determinism." We are trapped, by and large, in the lower realm, but are through the sacraments, by means of the plasmate, extricated. Until astral determinism is broken, we are not even aware of it, so occluded are we. "The Empire never ended."


49. The name of the healthy twin, hyperuniverse I, is Nommo [footnote: Nommo is represented in a fish form, the early Christian fish.] The name of the sick twin, hyperuniverse II, is Yurugu. These names are known to the Dogon people of western Sudan in Africa.


50. The primordial source of all our religions lies with the ancestors of the Dogon tribe, who got their cosmogony and cosmology directly from the three-eyed invaders who visited long ago. The three-eyed invaders were mute and deaf and telepathic, could not breathe our atmosphere, had the elongated misshapen skull of Ikhnaton, and emanated from a planet in the star-system Sirius. Although they had no hands, but had, instead, pincer claws such as a crab has, they were great builders. They covertly influence our history toward a fruitful end.


51. Ikhnaton wrote:


"...When the fledgling in the egg chirps in the egg,

Thou givest him breath therein to preserve him alive.

When thou has brought him together

To the point of bursting the egg,

He cometh forth from the egg,

To chirp with all his might.

He goeth about upon his twoeet

When he hath come from therefrom.


How manifold are they works!

They are hidden from before us,

O sole god, whose powers no other possesseth.

Thou didst create the earth according to they heart

While thou wast alone:

Men, all cattle large and small,

All that go about upon their feet;

All that are on high,

That fly with their wings.

Thou art in my heart,

There is no other that knoweth thee

Save thy son Ikhnaton.

Thou hast made him wise

In thy designs and in thy might.

The world is in they hand..."


52. Our world is still secretly ruled by the hidden race descended from Ikhnaton, and his knowledge is the information of the Macro-Mind itself.


"All cattle rest upon their paturage,

The trees and the plants flourish,

The birds flutter in their marshes,

Their wings uplifted in adoration to thee.

All the sheep dance upon their feet,

All winged things fly,

They live when thou hast shone upon them."

From Ikhnaton this knowledge passed to Moses, and from Moses to Elijah, the Immortal Man, who became Christ. But underneath all the names there is only one Immortal Man; and we are that man.

* * *

*Even the word "directional" is infected! It belongs to the same family as direct, correct and rectify (from the Germanic recht). It amuses me how, when I explain this phenomenon to people, they'll exclaim "You're right!...er..I mean you're correct...er, oh..."

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