From: Vinod Kumar (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Mar 24 2009 - 01:24:59 CST
Please have a look at
The writing direction appears to have a profound influence on
many everyday happenings just as the cola ad shows. Yesterday (Feb
18, 2009) there was a news that the Taliban has enforced
driving on the right side of the road in the Swat valley of
Pakistan because they write from RtoL. Earlier, because of
the British legacy, they
used to drive along the left of the road just like us
Indians. But it beats me to tell the connection between reading
from right to left and driving on the right!
A quip from my friend Vijayaraman: "Reading Direction" and
"Driving direction" relationship is something one can ponder
about! If there is such a thing, I wonder how Japanese would
drive their cars - they certainly write top to bottom!
Thinking deeper into it, there might be a connection between
writing and driving directions. When you drive along, the trees
and buildings on the left of the central vertical plane of vision
move right to left and the trees and buildings on the right move
LtoR. This is the case whether you drive along the left or the
Now consider the incoming traffic. On one way roads, or roads with
dividers the incoming traffic is absent or can be ignored.
Otherwise, as on most Indian roads, the incoming traffic has to be
watched carefully. When driving on the left of the road (India),
the incoming traffic will move from LtoR. If we read from LtoR,
the characters move in our visual space from RtoL. Hence, if the
predominant writing direction is LtoR, you should be driving on
the right of the road as in US to watch out for the incoming
traffic. So LtoR writing (English, French) is compatible with
driving on right hand side of the road! US wins over UK.
Incidently, the Taliban has got it wrong here because they read
from RtoL and should be driving on the left of the road as we do
now in India and Pakistan .
Now consider driving along, reading the sign boards on the side of
the road you are on. This is normal as you wish to read the board
"Uncle Tom's Cabin", get down in front and have a mug of beer.
Obviously the left of the road driving is comaptible with LtoR
writing. UK wins over US. The Taliban is now right in insisting
that everybody should drive on the right and read the signboards
strictly written RtoL in Pashto, Urdu or Arabic.
The match is evenly poised. Are there other considerations for
deciding which side of the road a country should drive given its
predominant writing direction? Changing the writing direction
looks impossible, but changing the driving side has a faint
glimmer of chance.
K Vinod Kumar
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