unlucky, Right lucky. The augur among the Romans having
taken his stand on the Capitoline Hill, and marked out with his wand
the space of the heavens to be the field of observation, divided the
space into two from top to bottom. If the birds appeared on the left
side of the division, the augury was unlucky, but if the birds appeared
on the right side the augury was pronounced to be favourable.
“Hail, gentle bird, turn thy wings and fly on my right hand” but the
bird flew on the left side. Then the cat grew very heavy, for he knew
the omen to be unlucky. —Reynard the Fox, iii.
in the Legislative Assembly of France, meant the Girondists; it was
famous for its orators. In the House of Commons the Opposition occupies
the left-hand side of the Speaker. In the Austrian Assembly the
democratic party is called The Left.
Over the left.
A way of expressing disbelief, incredulity, or a negative. The
allusion is to morganatic marriages (q.v.). When a woman so
married claimed to be a wedded wife, she was told that such was the
case “over the left.” (See below.)
(the left hand), meaning not straightforward, dishonest, is far
older than morganatic marriages. The ancient Greek augurs considered
all signs seen by them over the left shoulder to be unlucky, and
foreboding evil to come Plutarch, following Plato and Aristotle, gives
as the reason; that the west (or left side of the augur) was towards
the setting or departing sun.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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