Thursday, 12 December 2013

Cack-handed - Oh My Gauche!

This is a left hand, in all its sinister, cack-handed glory
(drawing by Al Arthur)


Adjective. Colloquial. Mid-19th century.
[from CACK noun + HAND noun + -ED.]

Left-handed; clumsy.

Lefties are a sorry bunch. Not only do they have to endure living in a right-handed world that chuckles at them every time they try and open a can of beans, they also have to endue an interminably prejudicial language that both elevates right-handers and denigrates left-handers - the word sinister, for example, is from a Latin root meaning left. Few words are as openly hostile as cack-handed, though: cack as a noun means 'excrement, dung, filth.' And we can't even blame the Romans for this little piece of linguistic hate - there is no etymological link between cack and left; at some point in 19th century we just arbitrarily decided that cack-handed means left-handed. And clumsy. Which is a tad unfair.

Not that left-handed people aren't more than capable of retaliatory prejudice, though: I do get rather tired of hearing how much smarter, brilliant and artistic left-handed people are (one girl I once met expressed surprise that I dabble in a spot of writing, what with me being right-handed, and all of us right-handers being such apelike philistines). And it's not that I can't use my left hand in a dextrous way - I can play the piano and type, after all. I just can't write with my left hand. Or cut bread. Or use a screwdriver. Or ... no ... open a tin of beans.  Anyway, this isn't about us right-handers, is it? It about the lefties ...  it's always about the lefties ...

Are you left-handed?

Does it make you cack-handed?

Have you ever received prejudicial treatment on account of your handedness?

Please type your comments with the wrong hand into the box below.


  1. In Russia levsha, a lefty, means a skilled craftsman, but I've no idea why.

    1. Really? That's very interesting. Russia does have a rather leftist history though ...

  2. I'm a southpaw :). I never saw it as a reason to have an elitist attitude, although I've always wondered how people could do things with a dominant right hand, when the left is just so...handy.

    I did have a college class with a girl who saw being a lefty as a disability. She actually dropped a class because all of the desks in the classroom were right-handed desks, and the instructor wouldn't have a table brought into the room for her. I had taken 2 history classes in that room, and sat in a right-handed desk for a whole year, and never had an issue. I had always thought that having that piece of desk on the right side would be rather cumbersome for right-handed people. I didn't push the issue, as she went on to state that she had gotten scholarships for her papers on the trials of being left-handed, as well as being less that 5' 3". I'm 5' 2", but I didn't feel like getting into an argument.

    I think it's because I actually DO have a disease that requires some accommodations. Or maybe because I've NEVER seen either of those things as being a disadvantage. Ah, well.

    1. Well, not being left-handed, I can't really comment on how much difficulty a left-handed person faces in the world. My wife did accidentally buy a left-handed potato peeler once, and it was just impossible to use, so if that's what a south-paw faces every day with all of the right-handed implements, then that is difficult indeed.

      I am too tall for this world (6ft 6in), and so I'm forever hitting my head off fittings and door frames, and working at counter tops gives me a bad back. One day, should I ever build my own house (I can dream), the counters will all be higher so that I can make myself a sandwich in the afternoon without needing a massage after. Aww.

    2. There are left-handed potato peelers?!?!

      Honestly, when you use appliances made for the dominant right hand forever, it becomes a non-issue. My only real struggle is scissors. Those molded for the right hand dig into my hand, and the lefty scissors are WEIRD. Instead of molding just the handle, they are made completely opposite, with the blades swapped. I have to buy scissors that have flat handles.
      I also used lefty notebooks for awhile, but really no matter what notebook you use, if you use both sides of the paper, the spiral is in the way, no matter which hand is dominant. I liked those because they were bigger than other notebooks.

      Having a friend that is 6' 4", I can visualize the height struggle, although I cannot empathize. Although, I have to admit, I have a real issue with doorjambs, myself. I'm always catching myself on them, and once ripped out one of my glucose monitoring sensors (ouch!).

  3. It's a right handed world. Sinistral is the root word for left handed and sinister derives from that. Several studies haven't conclusively indicated left handed people die earlier but there are studies that might indicate that.