8

Is there, or has there ever been, an unambiguous word for "the leftmost extreme" or "the rightmost extreme"? Such words exist for the other two dimensions.

Imagine you are floating in a cube in space.

  • You can go up until you hit the top.
  • You can go down until you hit the bottom.
  • You can go forward until you hit the front.
  • You can go backward until you hit the (back/rear).
  • You can go left until you hit the _______?
  • You can go right until you hit the _______?
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  • 4
    ...until you hit (or reach) the limit works for all of them. Note that your forward / backward examples don't work well, because 'back' and 'front' usually refer to your own extremities. Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 21:49
  • 2
    Generally, people don't continuously move left or right, they tend to turn left or right, then move forward. And you can turn left or right as many times as you want.
    – barbecue
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 13:13
  • 4
    You could refer to "the right side" or"the left side" of an object. Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 14:27
  • 2
    @EmilKarlsson "Port" and "starboard" don't mean the limit of travel to the left or the right, they just mean left and right.
    – nasch
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 20:39
  • 2
    Leftmost and rightmost? Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 15:21

6 Answers 6

14

Probably not, because left and right are often more vague compared to the other "limits". If you're approaching e.g. a round hill, "top" means the hill's summit, "bottom" generally means the lowest point of the hill that's closest to you. Left and right "limits" don't really mean anything, since you can go around the hill. Same applies to a sphere like the Earth etc. Some objects may have defined left/right "ends" but the word used then is usually specific to the shape. If it's a sheet of paper, the word would be "edge". If it's a building and you're on the ground, the word would be "corner" etc. If you're facing separate objects, like a row of columns, you can say "the leftmost/rightmost column".

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    Yes. As usual it depends on context. The question mentions floating in a cube in space, but how often does that happen?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 9:52
  • It was the example I came up with to clarify the question. Perhaps only on the International Space Station at present?
    – crb
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 23:12
  • It depends on your perspective and human perspective for all this is given by 1) gravity and 2) the position they face in terms of left/right of their own body on Earth. Floating in space still requires a point of view for left and right that cannot be given by a cube since it is all the same on all sides.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 15:11
4

If you assume that you are confined in a cube or cuboidal walled room or enclosure looking straight ahead or floating in a spaceship...

You can go up until you hit the top structure or roof.

You can go down until you hit the bottom structure or floor.

You can go forward until you hit the front wall.

You can go backward until you hit the (back/rear) wall.

You can go left until you hit the left wall.

You can go right until you hit the right wall.

These are 3 dimensions or 6 axes if sense of movement vector is considered.

1

There's no single word for these, we would just say "left face" or "right face".

If, instead of a solid like a cube, we were talking about something more linear (like a line, or a road on a map), you could say "beginning" for the left extreme and "end" for the right extreme. Absent other context, we tend to consider progression from left to right (west to east on maps), similar to reading. But note that this would change if the direction of motion along the line is known; then "beginning" is wherever you started, and "end" is the destination.

1

Imagine you are floating in a cube in space.

Port and starboard work well with marine vessels and aircraft who often deal with such orientation issues.
I presume space personnel use similar terms to aircraft folks.

Port and starboard unambiguously refer to the left and right side of the vessel, not the observer.
Why is port-starboard terminology used in aviation?.

port/starboard, fore/aft, top/below

"You can go (left) until you hit the cube's portside."

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    But are they extremes?
    – Joachim
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 9:30
  • @Joachim, Yes. the port/starboard of the craft and the P/S of the cube are its sides. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 10:24
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    It's not just the extremes. The entire left half of the ship is called "port", not just the hull. In maritime language they're essentially synonymous with "left" and "right".
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 16:05
  • @Barmar OK. port side then. IAC, port is unambiguous to the person's orientation on the craft, or in OP's case cube. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 20:12
  • Port is practically never used outside the context of marine and aircraft. No one would refer to the port side of a cube, they'd just say left or right.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 20:15
0

'Left' and 'right' in the political sense are are relative to each other. The distinction was first drawn in the French revolution. In the French assemblé, supporters of the king sat on his right, while opposition to the king sat on his left. Clearly the distance they sat to his left or his right was not necessarily a measure of the strength (or extremity) of support or opposition.

Left and Right in more recent times have to do with aspects of a politician's or a party's economic and social position or policies. It has nothing to do with the whether or not a nation should reject or acquire a monarch or junta. But the politics around the world are a bit like the world as we now know it: spherical rather than flat. So the left and right can meet at their respective extremes in Soviet communism and military dictatorship in both of which the mass population find themselves poor and powerless, ruled by a dominant ruling caste, monarchic, religious or military.

The common way of dealing with the 'wings' of politics is the use of the word 'Far' as in 'far' (or sometimes 'extreme') left and right.

2
  • Thank you for a considered answer, and I'm sorry for not being totally unambiguous. I was explicltly referring to geometry, not politics!
    – crb
    Commented Mar 11 at 22:50
  • Thank you for a forgiving response: I should have read the question more carefully. I suppose "side" must be the best, as mentioned among the other answers.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Mar 12 at 22:33
-4

In math, the extremes of the left-right axis are called -∞ and +∞ .

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  • This isn't math per se. It's geometry.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 22:45
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    @Lambie you say that like geometry isn't a subset of mathematics
    – Boneist
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 8:52
  • @Boneist I don't understand that sentence. As far as I can tell, a cube does not have extremes of a left-right axis.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 14:43
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    This doesn't seem to fit the example of a cube. You wouldn't say the left face is at negative infinity. You're answering the summary in the title, not the actual question.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 16:06

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