Word of the Week - Southpaw

What is a southpaw?

Noun: a person who uses their left hand with greater skill than their right - a left-handed person.

Pronunciation: [ˈsaʊθˌpɔː]

Example: “Bob, why are you holding your fork with your left hand? Are you a southpaw?”

Origin:  Let's have Rocky Balboa (from the movie Rocky) share the definition of southpaw with you:

“You know where southpaw comes from? I'll tell ya. A long time ago there was this guy, maybe a couple a hundred years ago, he was fighting around, I think it was around Philadelphia, and his arm - he was left-handed - and his arm was facing toward New Jersey, you see? And that's south. So then naturally they call him south paw. You see? South paw, south Jersey, South Camden, southpaw. You know what I mean?”

Rocky’s explanation has been applied to other sports, including baseball, and has come into general use. The term 'northpaw' never caught on, though.

Famous left handers: Prince William, Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo da Vinci, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Martina Navratilova and Nicole Kidman.

Bias against left-handed people

Left-handed people live in a world dominated by right-handed people, and many tools and procedures are designed to be used by right-handed people, often without consideration for the difficulties placed on the left-handed.

In many European languages, including English, the word for the direction "right" also means "correct" or "proper". This exists in many other languages:

    • In Latin the word for right is dextra, meaning useful, and the word for left is sinistra - which is where we get "dexterous" (skillful) and "sinister" (evil) from
    • The French word gauche ("left") means clumsy, graceless or awkward
    • The Dutch expression "twee linkerhanden hebben" ("to have two left hands") indicates clumsiness
    • Same in Hungarian, in which “kétbalkezes” "one with two left hands" means to be clumsy
    • In Chinese culture, the adjective "left" (Chinese: 左; pinyin: zuǒ) sometimes means "improper" or "out of accord"
    • In Portuguese, "acordar com o pé esquerdo" (waking up on your left foot) means waking up in a bad mood.
    • In colloquial Russian, "левый" (left) means "unauthorised", "under the table", and "ходить налево" ("to go leftwards") is to commit adultery. "левая сумка" ("a left bag") is a fake or counterfeit bag.

Christianity is strongly biased towards the right hand. It is the right had that gives blessings and make the sign of the cross. The Bible contains at least 25 unfavorable references to the left hand.

Southpaw meaning
4 of the last 7 US presidents have been southpaws

However, in one-on-one sports such as tennis, boxing and fencing, lefties actually have a slight edge. The ratio of the population is about 90% to 10% in favor of right handers, so right-handed people usually practice and play against right-handers while southpaws are well-practised at dealing with this asymmetry.

As a southpaw myself, I've never experienced any type of disadvantage, except for an occasional ink smudge on my hand.

Have you had any negative experience regarding your left-handedness? Tell us about it below!

Share this with your friends