Left handed expressions

The left side is often associated in language with awkwardness and clumsiness (because right-handers think left-handed people look awkward using the tools that they have specifically designed to make them backwards for us!). the Spanish expression “tener dos pies izquierdos”, In English, the expression “to have two left feet” refers to clumsiness in the domains of football or dancing.

A “left-handed compliment” is considered one that is unflattering or dismissive in meaning.

The Polish expression “mieć dwie lewe ręce”, Dutch “twee linkerhanden hebben”, German “zwei linke Hände haben”, the Bulgarian expression “dve levi ratse”, French “avoir deux mains gauches”, Hungarian kétbalkezes and Czech “Mít obě ruce levé” all mean “to have two left hands” – that one is clumsy or is a very poor handyman.

The German idiom “mit dem linken Fuß aufgestanden sein”, the Spanish expression “levantarse con el pie izquierdo”, the French expression “s’être levé du pied gauche”and the Hungarian expression “bal lábbal kel fel” (literally, to have gotten up with the left foot) mean to have a bad day and do everything wrong or unsuccessfully, related to the English expression “to get up on the wrong side of the bed”.

The Welsh phrase “tu chwith allan” (left side out) refers to an object being inside-out. In Russian, the use of the term nalyevo means “on the left”, but can also connotate taking bribes or “sneaky” behavior. Balszerencse (lit. “left luck”) is Hungarian for “bad luck”.

If you have any more information on any of these sayings or know others from your country, please
add them as a comment to this article.

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33 Responses to “Left handed expressions”

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  1. Angela says:

    When I was a girl in the midlands, I remember being called “caggy handed”, which I hated! I can also remember telling my needlework teacher at school that I did things differently because of being left-handed and received the response, “No wonder you always get things wrong!”

  2. Donnell says:

    yea well when everything is RIGHT something has to go wrong so why not LEFT right? everything RIGHT isn’t right so mayb more things should be LEFT! understand?

  3. mj says:

    i’m from serbia, and in serbian language when someone wakes up cranky we say “ustao na levu nogu” witch means got up from the bed on the left foot. and when somebody is clumsy we say “ima dve leve ruke” witch means he’s got two left hands. the same goes for feet.

  4. Rachel says:

    In Devon in England the traditional term for being left handed is Cutch pawed (don’t know correct spelling. I always liked the sound of that better than cack handed.

  5. Corrie Fisted says:

    I grew up in Glasgow in the 1940’s and 50’s. We lefties were called corrie-fisted, and in primary school the teachers would rap us over the fingers with a blackboard pointer to get us to change. Some did, but I was too stubborn, and so I’m a proud corrie fister to this day. Hence my pen name. The word corrie is said to come from the Gaelic cearr meaning left, or wrong hand. There are also some local versions, such as caurrie-haundit and corrie dukit.

  6. Ken says:

    I was the only one out of four boys in our family that turned out left handed, and I got all kinds of comments from all of them, I never changed to what they wanted, its how I learned and will always be good old left handed. I bat right handed, use a right hand mouse, when I first started using computers that’s all they had I never questioned could I change it I found out much later it was programmable so I am a right mouser. Many tools we use are awkward to use as us lefty s know, I just do the best I can, but I do shoot left handed even have a left handed bolt action rifle special order naturally, it even cost more for a left handed bolt action rifle.

  7. pilar says:

    in guatemala we say “tienes dos pies izquierdos” which means you do not know dance well

  8. Jerry says:

    The Expresion that I always use is the one my left-handed father would tell people when he or I was doing something with our (wrong hand)

    I WAS BORN RIGHT HANDED BUT OVERCAME THAT HANDICAP!

    It either really confused the person or really made them mad.

  9. susi says:

    Hi everybody! I`m from Argentina, overhere there exists the expression “levantarse con el pie izquierdo” (getting up on one`s left foot) whicha means that you won`t have a lucky day. Another colloquial expression is “hacer algo por zurda” (to do something through your left side) meaning “to do sth ilegally or at least not following the “right” (= correct) way for doing so.

  10. Bob Pumfrey says:

    Ambidextrous is an English word describing a person who is equally capable with either hand. Its roots in Latin are ambi and dexter, meaning two right hands or right handed on both sides.

    Ambisinistrous is another English word. It refers to a person who is equally clumsy with either hand. Its roots in Latin are ambi and sinister, meaning two left hands or left handed on both sides. Sinister also means evil in Latin, just as it does today in English. There have been quite a number of times and cultures in history which viewed left handedness as evil, hence this dual meaning in Latin of sinister.

    • Lifelong Lefty Lee says:

      I knew the phrase ambisinitrous (bah!), and was pleased that you correctly definined ambidextrous as being someone who can do most/all things equally well with both hands. True ambidextrous people are rare, and most people [incorrectly] use the word for people that do some things better with their left hand, and some things better with their right hand. Probably a better word (and the one that I use) for that is ambilateral; meaning pertaining to or affecting both sides. Ambi (meaning both) and lateral (meaning sides). See the additional two definitions from Dictionary.com here:(caps are my emphases)
      1. of or pertaining to the side; situated at, proceeding from, or DIRECTED TO A SIDE: a lateral view.
      2. pertaining to or entailing a position, office, etc., THAT IS DIFFERENT BUT EQUIVALENT OR ROUGHLY EQUIVALENT IN STATUS, as distinguished from a promotion or demotion: a lateral move

      What do you think?

  11. Fiona says:

    growing up in Kenya we had a house maid who, having been brought up in the rural areas, was not really happy with my left handedness and felt that my parents should have forced me to use my right. She was constantly teasing me about it (in swahili) and one of the common phrases she’d use was, ‘unatumia mkono wa mavi’ which very bluntly translates to ‘you use the poop hand’ since apparently most people use their left hands to (again put very bluntly) wipe themselves. Needless to say i wasn’t really amused by that (being a kid of around 7 or 8) and would sometimes wish i was right handed. I’m throughly glad to be a lefty now though :D

  12. rafael says:

    Pregunta si Jesucristo esta sentado a la derecha de Dios quien esta sentado a la izquierda?

  13. Livia says:

    In Brazil, there people also use the expression in potuguese “ter duas maos esquerdas” whem someone in clumsy, meaning: “to have two left hands” .

    • Nico says:

      In the Dutch language the same expression exists: “Hij heeft twee linkerhanden.” Meaning: he is clumsy.

  14. Carmiyah says:

    I’m from Israel, and in Hebrew the expression “lakum beregel smol” means to get up on your left foot and implies that you’ll have a bad day. There’s also an expression “lakum beregel yamin” meaning to get up on your right foot, implying ypou’ll have a good day.

  15. Sharon says:

    I was always called a “corrie fisteded” when I told people I was left handed. I’ve heard we are meant to be very artistic!!

  16. Emma says:

    Hi, I’m Welsh and speak the language as my first language. “tu chwith allan” does translate to mean “left side out”, meaning inside-out, however i don’t use the phrase personally or hear anyone else using it really. “Chwith” means left and the word is used in everyday Welsh conversation in its literal meaning. However there are a couple of other “chwith” words, such as “CHWITHDOD”, meaning “a sense of STRANGENESS” and “CHWITHIG” meaning “AWKWARD”. “O CHWITH” translates to “the WRONG way” and “y mae’n CHWITH gennyf glywed….” translates to “I am SORRY to hear…”

    Hmm…

  17. hannah says:

    I’ve always been called cack handed which of course is an old expression for poo.

  18. Ama says:

    In Asante Twi (a dialect in Ghana ) there is a saying “Obi nfa ne nsa benkum nkyere n’agya kurom” (one does not point to the father’s home town with the left hand)
    And it means one does not disrespect his/her origins

    • kwaku says:

      Nama is right except that Asante is a language not a dialect in Ghana. Of course Asante Twi is a dialect of the twi language. In my mother tongue Ewe the saying “ele nu wom to mia me” meaning “he does things through the left side’ implies the person does not follow the generally accepted way of doing things. It is an insult actually. It is as if the person’s brain does not function normally.

      Kwaku

    • kwaku says:

      Ama is right except that Asante is a language not a dialect in Ghana. Of course Asante Twi is a dialect of the twi language. In my mother tongue Ewe the saying “ele nu wom to mia me” meaning “he does things through the left side’ implies the person does not follow the generally accepted way of doing things. It is an insult actually. It is as if the person’s brain does not function normally.

      Kwaku

  19. Nico Egbers says:

    The latin word for “left” is “sinister”, “right” is “dexter”.
    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=sinister

  20. Eduardo Novoa says:

    Here in Mexico there is an expression that the righthanded people use to say that something is pretty easy to do and it is:
    “Fácil y con la zurda” “easy and with the lefthand”

  21. terhi says:

    in finnish there’s an expression that if something is done haphazardly/sloppy, it’s done lefhandedly (vasenkatisesti tehty).

    • Brittany says:

      That’s what I’d like to call “handist”, my friend. It really sucks, living in a right-handed world where the majority of the world’s population is right-handed and don’t care about the special minority. Also, I wonder why there are less lefties in every culture? Why is the right hand more common?

    • Sigrid says:

      The same in Danish; venstrehndsarbejde.

  22. Stephen Hill says:

    Cuddy means horse, pony or donkey.

    Cuddy wifter means dickhead, or smelly or both – cannot find anty ref. of Wifter

  23. Heidi says:

    nowadays, people on some internet sites use the sentence haters to the left, which you could explain as “if you don’t like it, go to the left”

  24. Federico B. Santa Cruz says:

    In Tagalog, the National Language of the Philippines, “mangaliwa” means to have an extramarital affair. The root word is “kaliwa” meaning left handed.

    • Jennifer says:

      That’s very interesting. In Swedish there’s also an expression for cheating on your spouse, and it is “vänsterprassla”. The word “vänster” means left.

  25. Ian says:

    Coming from the North of England and from a long line of left handers, I was often called a cuddy wifter (not sure if the spelling is correct). I’ve no idea where it originates from or what it means.

    • G6JPG says:

      Cuddy is certainly Geordie for donkey (or, according to Stephen Hill above, pony or horse). Wifter I don’t know, though I would guess at hand, as I have a feeling to wift is to deflect (a ball or similar) with the hand, or to smite someone. (Another has said a cuddy wifter is a telling blow with the left, which sounds very plausible – like southpaw.) I _presume_ there is some negative connotation, as in the cussedness of donkeys, but don’t know for sure.