[LMB] OT: How Did You Learn to Read?

Zeev Tarantov zeev.tarantov at gmail.com
Sun Oct 15 17:24:07 BST 2017

On Sat, Oct 14, 2017 at 9:13 PM, Howard Brazee <howard at brazee.net> wrote:

> As a child, I read the novel “Hay  Foot, Straw Foot”, where a boy helped
> one of George Washington’s soldiers learn how to march by putting hay in
> one shoe and straw in the other.   I wondered how could someone know the
> difference between hay and straw, but not know the difference between right
> and left (especially marching with everybody else).

In the Russian army, illiterate conscripted peasants who didn't know the
words "right" and "left", when taught to march, had hay tied to their left
leg and right arm, and straw tied to their right leg and left arm. The
commands were not "left, right" but "hay, straw". The term "hay-straw" now
means something like "country bumpkin" in Russian. This training technique
is mentioned in Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy's "Peter the Great", but I
would love to get an earlier source, just to be sure it's not a 20th
century invention.


I wonder, was that training method used in many countries, or did someone
make a buck appropriating a piece of Russian history?

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