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Left-Handed Language

A lot of language around the world and throughout history has been very detrimental to left-handers, whether it is the names we are called or the words that are used to mean "left-handed".

  Left-handed language
Names for left-handers

Cack-handed and similar
Playing up the right
Sayings where the word "left" does not fit
Sayings where the word "right" does not fit

Positive references to left-handed

left handed words

Left-handed language

Left Handers do not do any better in foreign languages, as we show below. This is mainly based on personal communications from people who live in the countries concered and we cannot guarantee it is correct! If you have any more examples or any comments or corrections, please Click Here To Email Keith to let us know

Language Words for "Left-Handed" Meanings
Australia Mollie Dooker Something to do with having fists like a girl
Belarus Liewsha Meaning:Sneaky or Mistrustful
Bulgarian   In Bulgarian we have three words describing a left-handed person - Левичар (Levichar), Левогер (Levoger) and Левак (Levak). The last one is considered very offensive. We also have a term called лефтерен (lefteren), which describes something that's not working properly or isn't strong enough. As you can see, the word is derived from English left.
Chinese   In Chinese, the word left is sometimes associated with the "dark side". There is a phrase that associated the evil with the word left "Zuo".

IF I am not wrong, in Cantonese, the word left also means hindering. But this will require the native Cantonese speaking people to verify.
Danish Venstre-håndet
Kejthåndet
Avethåndet
neutral, "using the left hand"
to be "kejtet" means to be clumsy, awkward
(dialect): "avet" means clumsy, wrong
Dutch Linkshandig Lefthanded

Another meaning of the dutch word "Links" but only in the dialect 
"Brabants" (from Noord-Brabant, a province of the Netherlands) is 
"inside-out", especially used for clothing.
Like in: "Je hebt je shirt links aan" (you are wearing your T-shirt inside-out)

Finnish Vasenkätinen
Vasuri
Left-handed
"Lefty"
French Gauche Awkward, clumsy
German Links, Linkisch Awkward
Greek Skaios Ill-omened, awkward
Comment received - there's no word like that in greek... the word is aristeros, coming from aristos, meaning someone who succeeds.
Hindi Ulta Haanth The left hand in Hindi is called "Ulta Haanth", which literally translates to the opposite, wrong, bad hand. So much has this permeated that most lefties don't realise what they're saying, and wind up using the phrase themselves
Hungarian   Hungarian language is quite straightforward:

Right - "Jobb" (also a synonym for better) comes from the word "Jo" which means good

Left - "Bal" (also a synonym for bad, or used grammatically negative meaning to positive word, for example:

Balszerencse - "Left" Luck = disaster
Baleset - "Left" event = accident
etc....you get the point
Indonesia Kidal means lefty.  It is interesting cause in my culture, kidal or lefty also means impolite
Irish Ciotóg





Citog

Cloot
In the Gaelic language, pronounced 'kitt-ogue' (as in 'rogue'). Also means "the strange one". The term is also used by Irish people speaking in English - it would be frequently used in sports commentary and there is a a tv production company called Ciotog Films.

Left or Stupid

is the Irish name for left handers, especially completely left handed people. It's slightly negative, meaning awkward...I cant work with you.

some of my Irish relatives call me caggy mufty [not sure about the spelling!].

'Citeog’ is the Irish expression for a leftie. Nobody knows where it first started but its generally an endearing term and not at all offensive

ciotógach = Gaelic (Irish) for left-handed
Italian Mancini Crooked, maimed

Italian for left side is "sinistra"; a like term for sinister.
Japanese  

I've been learning Japanese; the Japanese for left-handed is "hidari kiki" which as far as I can gather has no negative connotations.

Hidari-kiki has no negative connotations, and 'southpaw', from the American Baseball term is also often used. An obsolete term, 'gitcho' is no longer used, on the assumption that it was derogatory since there was no equivalent term for right-handed. However, the possible origin of the term itself shows no particular bias - the word 'gitcho' is the name of the stick used in a Heian era stick and ball game, and 'hidari-gitcho' is simply the word used for hitting the ball with the stick in the left hand.

Korean Oen right - Oreun(in Korean). It means right, correct (it is like English 'right'). Also, Oreunson(right hand) is often replaced 'Bareunson', its mean is perpectly same 'right'. It is very interesting.

left - oen(it sounds like 'when') It means 'wrong', 'bad' in old Korean. It is used in Korean proberb sometimes
Latin Sinister

Dexter
On the left-hand side

On the right hand side (dextrous)
Malaysia   In Malaysia, our local language Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language) term left-handedness as Kidal. ("ki" as in KEY and "dal" as in "DAHL" like Roald Dahl)
Mexico Chueco Literally, "chueco" means twisted or non-straight.
Northern Ireland   I'm from a small town in Northern Ireland where a lot of our dialect is Ulster-Scotch. Every time I went to write, or do anything with my left hand I was called "KITTER FISTED" or "AWKWARD ANNIE"! In fact, I'm only 29 but went to seconday school with a lefty who had the 'devil beat out of him'and was forced to use his right hand. Oh the ignorance of it all....!!
Norwegian Kjevhendt Crooked-handed (also advised to us as keivhent, left-hander)

In Norwegian it's more common (and correct)to say "venstrehendt" instead of keivhendt (kjevhendt)
"Venstrehendt" simply means left handed as opposed to "høyrehendt" which means "righthanded".
Philippines Kaliwete Unfortunately, it also has another negative meaning like the other languages. When someone is a "kaliwete," or mentioned to be "nangangaliwete" (present tense verb form), it can mean that a person is a two-timer or is being unfaithful.
Polish   In polish language lefthanded mean leworęczny( correct) also people use words as: mańkut, śmaja, lewus.Last pharses are offensive for lefthanders.

Leworeczcy or mankut in Polish,Meaning:illegal
Portuguese canhoto Portuguese "canhoto" meaning; lacking ability or physical co-ordination; clumsy; badly done or made

"Canhoto" is a popular name for the Devil here in Portugal and there are many superstitions and even popular festivities in which Canhoto appears as the Devil himself, in rituals such as "queimar o Canhoto" ("burning the Canhoto"), in some regions, a kind of Halloween.

Also, when speaking of a potentially terrible event or a bad omen it is a Portuguese traditional gesture to knock three times on wood with the right hand and say "Diabo sejas cego, surdo e mudo! Lagarto, lagarto, lagarto sejas canhoto!" which translates roughly into "Devil be blind, deaf and mute! Lizard, lizard, lizard be left-handed!". This is probably so because by cursing the Devil to be left-handed it will prevent him from doing harm so efficiently, as is a popular misconception to believe left-handed to be awkward and clumsy.

There is also another popular saying - "Figas Canhoto!" (usually accompanied by the gesture of hooking the right forefinger over the (right) thumb which is traditionally used to ward off evil, jinxes, the Devil), "Figas" being the plural name of said gesture and Canhoto the Devil himself.

In Portugal we also have the word "Esquerdino" which indicates "someone who habitually uses the left hand", which is better accepted because "canhoto" is a derogatory definition, but is best used on a daily basis.
Romanian Stângaci which means "left-hander" as well as "unskillful"
Russian  

in russian LEVSHA.it is meaning not trustworthy.in Ortodoxy church left side is a women`s side

In Russia classmates often say about lefthanders: "Левша-кривая душа".It means, lefthander has a wry soul ;) 

Liefshá,liewshá and lifshá are lefties in Russian and meaning:not trustworthy and sneaky.The variant:na lievo,meaning:sneaky

Scotland  

I'm Scottish and up here left handed people are called corrie-fisted. It comes from the Gaelic cearr meaning left, or wrong hand. There are also some local dialect versions, such as caurrie-haundit and corrie dukit.

Serbian   In Serbian we both write and read it the same-LEVORUK if it's a male or LEVORUKA if it's female.And that literaly means LEFT HAND!
Spanish Zurdo


Siniestro


Chueco
Reverse - No Ser Zurdo = Clever. Not usually used in an insulting way. In Argentina, the "zurdos" are seen as quite intelligent people

In spanish right handers are called "diestro" (which means= able), and siniestro means creapy, freak

Twisted
Swahili   left is kushoto, or weak
Swedish vänsterhänt left-handed. According to my etymological dictionary the word "vänster" ("left") originally meant "the favourable [side]", and is related to the word "vän" ("friend"). So, maybe you should add a list of languages where the word "left" actually is a positive one! :-)
Turkish Solak Left handed, also means Obstinate person (or animal), Clumsy, Out of balance, Not functional
Ukrainian Lifshá Meaning:Sneaky or Mistrustful
Wales   When I was young in Wales I was often referred to as being "llaw bwt" i.e. stump handed. Not very flattering, but as I didn't speak Welsh at the time it didn't really mean anything to me! Also the Welsh for LEFT is CHWITH, and if something is O'I CHWITH it is wrong, or out of place

 

If you have any more examples or any comments or corrections, please Click here to email Keith to let us know.

Names for left-handers

Researchers preparing a survey of English dialects found 88 different words for 'left-handed' (mostly uncomplimentary) in local use in the 1950's including the following:

Buck-fisted Gar-pawed Left-kelly
Cack-handed Gibble-fisted Left-plug
Caggy Golly-handed Scoochy
Clicky Kay-neived Scrammy-handed
Corrie-fisted Keck-fisted Skiffle-handed
Cow-pawed Keggy-handed South-paw
Cuddy-wifter Kerry Spuddy-handed
Dolly-pawed Kittaghy Squiffy

 

More recently, we have also been told about:

  • Gollie Handed (Hull area in N.E. England)

  • Because their rudders were attached to the right side, ancient sailing vessels were docked to the left. This side became the 'port side'. Today left-handers (mostly in the USA) are sometimes called 'Port Siders'.

  • The term 'Southpaw' is derived from baseball. Parks were often built with the homeplate in the western corner of the field. When a left-handed pitcher was facing the batter, his throwing arm would be the closest to the south, thus the term 'Southpaw' was coined.
    Another name in America for a left hander playing baseball was to call a left handed batter was a hooker….

  • When I was growing up in Warwickshire, UK, left handers were always referred to as Keggy or Kack Handed (or sometimes Peg Handed). I still tend to refer to someone left handed as Keggy!

  • After reading about other names for left handed, I would like to add SCRAMMY, used in Bristol, UK

  • We actually call it Corrie Fisted, but this derives from the name 'Kerr' (my surname!).  The Kerr family in
    the Borders region were mostly left handed - in fact, the built their houses and castle's with a left handed bias (spiral staircases the 'wrong' way round so that they could fight with their swords and defend on the stairs).

  • Another name for being left handed is....Taggy handed which is used in Lincolnshire, UK

  • In Ancient Hebrew, left-handers were called "Eetair yad y'mini", i.e.
    "constricted right-hand".  Ouch!

  • Born and raised in central Birmingham, I was always called CAGGY-HANDED as a child - yet another nickname?

  • In Fife, Scotland we use corrie fistit (fisted)

  • My wife is from the north -east and she calls me cuddy handed and here in Yorkshire I'm cack - handed

  • In some parts of the UK (I always thought it was a Scottish term, but a bit of Googling reveals it may be Irish in origin) Catholics are referred to as “Left Footers”, according to what I found out, it seems the Catholics used spades (possibly for turf or peat cutting, possibly just generally), with a lug for putting your left foot on whilst digging, whilst the Protestants used spades with the lug on the right.

  • In America, a left-handed snowboarder is called "Goofy," and a lefty board is called a "Goofy Board."  This is because the board is designed to slant in the opposite direction of righty boards. 

  • I grew up in Leicestershire  and was called ‘cack-handed’ and ‘corky dobber’  I’ve never heard the latter since, but my mother used it, as an affectionate term.

If you have any more examples or any comments or corrections, please Click here to email Keith to let us know.

Cack-handed and similar

This is a name that is still in common usage in the UK and seems to have variants all round the world. It is actually quite offensive and one explanation I have found is:

The direct association is with cack, another fine Old English term, for excrement or dung. Cachus was Old English for a privy, and both words come from Latin cacare, to defecate.

It almost certainly comes from the very ancient tradition, which has developed among peoples who were mainly right-handed, that one reserved the left hand for cleaning oneself after defecating and used the right hand for all other purposes. At various times this has been known in most cultures. Some consider it rude even to be given something using the left hand. So to be left-handed was to use the cack hand or be cack-handed.


Not very nice!

We have also been advised of other similar usages...

  • In Thailand we do not have any nick name for the L/H but we have one word to amuse the L/H people that "E SAI PAI KEE " it's mean the people who use the hand which touch the [excrement]

Playing up the right

A more subtle way of downplaying left-handedness is by praising the right. Thus we have:

  • Dextrous, dexterity - skillful in performing tasks, especially with the hands - from the Latin "dexter": right.
  • Ambidextrous - having two right hands.
  • Adroit - skillful - from the French "droit": right.
  • The Queen's motto: Dieu et mon droit - God and my right
  • To sit on the right hand side of someone is an especially favoured position.

On the other hand! - Here is the etymology of the word left from Wiktionary: From Middle English, left, lift, luft; from Anglo-Saxon, left, lyft lit. worthless, weak.

Says it all really!

The English word "adroit"  meaning skillful, comes from the French " a droit," meaning to the right.

~~likewise,~~

The English "maladroit" meaning clumsy comes from French "mal a droit," literally meaning "bad at right." 

Sayings where the word "left" does not fit

Might is left-handed Wait for Mr Left to come along The divine left of Kings
His heart is in the left place He's not in his left mind It will all come left in the end

Sayings where the word "right" does not fit

Right in the lurch He was right at the post The right luggage office
Nothing but cold right-overs A right-handed compliment A man with two right feet

 

Positive references to left-handed

"Out of left field" (a baseball expression?) means unexpected and often novel, but it isn't definitely positive

"The only positive use of "left" I know of is that "aristocrat" has the Greek word for "left" in its root, but then Greece was the birthplace of democracy – they may not have meant "aristocrat" to be complimentary either."
 
Unfortunately, even this 'positive' is flawed: -
 
"Aristocrat is from aristo- meaning "best" and krat- meaning "rule".  Aristeros does mean left, but it's not the root here."

More on this from Catherine at UCLA...

I was intrigued by your claim in this month's LHC Newsletter that "aristocracy" has a root meaning "left", but I am not sure you are right. "Aristos" means "best" (the superlative of "agathos" meaning "good") and "kratia" is "rule, mastery", and I think you may have confused "aristos" with "aristeros", which means "left"; but, interestingly, "aristeros" is a euphemism (the Greeks were fond of these—thus the Furies were called "the kindly ones", "Eumenides"). Since something on the left (e.g. a portent) was unlucky (!), one didn't refer to it as such, but as "aristeros"—that is, using a fake comparative of "aristos": roughly, "bester". "Euônumos" meaning "of good name, honoured, fortunate" was also used. So I'm afraid the ancient Greeks were as leftist as everyone else seems to be.

Have you heard anything about the Russian writer Leskov and his The Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea? You can find some information in English following this wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levsha

What I can add to this is that Leskov was a lefty himself. In that time when he wrote his story about the Levsha (Lefty) the word "levsha" (Rus. left-handed, lefty) was used in reference to a bad, unskillful and poor craftsman and one of the implications of the tale was that even a bad Russian craftsman was better that an English one.

But, lefty Leskov played some kind of a trick with the word "levsha" because very soon after the tale had been published and read, the word "levsha" changed its meaning absolutely radically!!!! Ever since then, it has meant a skillful, artful, experienced, trustful craftsman. Nowadays a lot of workshops are called Levsha (Lefty) to attract more customers/clients because it means that very professional guys work there! :)
So, at least we have some positive meaning of the word "lefty" thanks to Nikolai Leskov.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 





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