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All right, kids, our lesson for today will be devoted to the word “right,” possibly one of the most versatile words in the English language.
While the basic definition for “right” as culled from several dictionaries includes “true or correct as a fact,” “morally good, justified, proper or acceptable” and “to the furthest or most complete extent or degree,” the word goes far beyond these and can be used in numerous ways for almost anything.
Right can be used as an adjective as in “right angle” or “my right front tire is flat”; as an adverb as in “the plane slid right off the runway; as a noun i.e. “She had every right to slap him across the face;” as a verb, as in “We were able to right the boat after it had taken on water” and as an exclamation to show agreement i.e. “You’re planning to be here, right”?
Roughly 100 songs containing the word “right” in the title have been written and recorded in the United States, including such selections as “Right Place, Wrong Time” by Dr. John in 1973, “All Right Now” by Free in 1970, “Left, Right Out of Your Heart” by Patti Page in 1958, “You Got That Right” by Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1978 and “Get Right Back to Where I Started From,” a tune released by Maxine Nightingale in 1975 that’s heard as background music numerous times during the 1977 movie “Slap Shot” starring Paul Newman.
More than 100 movies or TV dramas have been produced containing the word “right” in the title including “The Right Stuff” from 1983 about the Mercury astronauts and “All the Right Moves,” also from 1983 and starring Tom Hanks.
Tobacco farmers from “right” around this area have been known to describe their harvest as being either a “right good crop” or in the case of adverse growing conditions, the crop might end up being “right bad.”
Other “right” phrases or statements include “trying to get off on the right foot,” finding the “right one,” “fighting for my rights,” “right as rain” and “right between the eyes.”
Also, “right now,” “is that right?”, “I don’t feel right doing that,” “right away,” “right of way” and “right of free speech.”
Right is a commonly used word in athletics including right field, right fielder and right-handed in baseball, the football team positions right tackle and right guard, (not to be confused with Right Guard deodorant); right cross, right jab and right hook in boxing; and “his drive went right down the middle of the fairway” in golf.
Another example of the word’s versatility is found in the combinations of opposites such as right little, right big; right early, right late; right hot, right cold; right short, right tall; right ugly, right purdy (pretty); right here and right there.
Military drill commands include right face; right shoulder, arms; dress right, dress; right step, march; eyes right — and the standard military salute is always performed with the right hand as is the practice of shaking hands with someone.
The most unusual definition I could find for “right” came from Urban Dictionary, which said: “Right is something you say to agree with someone even though you have no idea what you are talking about.”
To help eliminate confusion other spellings of right with the same sound and other meanings are write, wright and rite.
Examples of slang or unusual applications for right are; “Get in here, and I mean rat (right) now”; “right on;” “right cheer (right here);” and “right yonder.”
Also, “Pow, right in the kisser” as spoken by Jackie Gleason as New York City bus driver Ralph Kramden to his wife, Alice, on “The Honeymooners” TV sitcom from the 1950s and — this might be my favorite — “He had a right smart amount of money in his wallet.”
Incidentally, “right smart” in this case can be loosely translated as a whole bunch.
“All was right with the world” is the narrator’s memorable statement at the conclusion of the movie “A Christmas Story” after Ralphie had gotten his Red Ryder BB gun as a Christmas gift.
Speaking of Christmas, remember that it’s right around the corner and if you’ve done the right things during the year, you could receive a right fair gift from Santa.
Keith Barnes is a reporter for the Johnstonian News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.