I teach partner dancing. I want to use language that makes sense to both Leads and Follows. When partners are facing each other, moving together, "Side!" is usefully ambiguous, meaning (depending on context) "right" to the Leads and "left" to Follows. In the same way, I want a word which can mean either "Forward" or "Backward". I can't find a word in English. Is there such a word in any language?

(Yes, the ambiguity of "Side!" could be confusing, but if it's clear that one foot is free and the other is not, without doing extra-fancy manoeuvres "Side!" can only mean one direction to each dancer, and when partners are facing each other, one will move left and the other right, and that will be the same direction.)

Edit: If not from another language, is there a useful term from science or some other discipline?

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    How is the forward/backward single motion conceptualised? Movement away from a single point? Movement in the (lead) direction of travel? – Michaelyus Sep 17 '19 at 10:15
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    zengo in Japanese means "front and back". It can mean "either direction", though I'm unsure if it'd be used as an imperative as in the example. I'm not sure also if importing a word from another language would be a good idea in an actual English-language class. – melissa_boiko Sep 17 '19 at 12:38
  • @Michaelyus, not relative to the direction of travel. Relative to their starting point and their bodies' front and back. Thanks for asking. Example - waltz basic box. When one partner steps forward, the other partner steps backward. "Forward, side, close; Back, side, close" works for one partner but not the other. – Jonathon Neville Sep 17 '19 at 12:46
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    @melissa_boiko, Thanks. Another option would be a neologism - "frack"? Setting aside the expletive sound, and the meaning of fracking for oil (hydraulic fracturing), perhaps this blended word (portmanteau) is better than a foreign word. For a waltz basic box, students would hear "Frack, side, close; frack side close." Weird indeed, but perhaps it would soon seem just like "side" - a word with a clear meaning in context. Also, one syllable is best, since it allows speaking in time with the beat. Alternatively, I could speak only to the leads. – Jonathon Neville Sep 17 '19 at 13:04
  • "Yaw! Pitch!" :) – Luke Sawczak Sep 17 '19 at 14:02

Judging from the posts on English StackExchange, there are not many verbs of movement along the sagittal axis (the front-back axis) in English, and I'm struggling to think of verbs that do so the other languages that I'm familiar with.

Neologisms are tricky, although can work in certain contexts.

The English StackExchange has the following suggestions that fit the criterion of a single syllable verb:

  • surge

  • rock

Surge is also a technical term, from mechanics (originally naval, as I take it), but it is the verb for motion in the z-axis, as one of the six degrees of freedom.

I'd also add, as further possibilities:

  • drive

  • go (in the absence of any other use!?)

In the comments, the Japanese 前後 zengo was mentioned, but its use as a verb has a very specific idiomatic meaning that is not what you want.

My knowledge of dance is very limited, but of course the pattern of "forward - side - close; back - side - close" seems to be standard in the community. [The German equivalent being "Vor - Seit - Schluss - Rück - Seit - Schluss", well known enough to be the title of a 2015 film]. Renaming may start off a war!


Side is even more ambiguous with front side and back side too. Some words in English that you could agree on using in dance to express moving to the front and back are to hammock, to swing. to commute or to saw. With these metaphores you can express going back and forth. You could use lateral and longitudinal but Maybe the word you are looking for is ‘medial’ https://flexikon-mobile.doccheck.com/de/Medial

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