Thursday, October 6, 2016

Word of the day: ambisinistrous

Joe Gould speaks of his childhood:

“Usually, when I was supposed to be paying attention to something, I was busy blowing my nose. Also, I was just generally inept. Not long ago, looking up something in the unabridged dictionary, I came across a word that sums up the way I was then, and for that matter, the way I am now — ‘ambisinistrous,’ or left-handed in both hands.”

Joseph Mitchell, “Joe Gould’s Secret” (1964).
It’s for real. Webster’s Second (perhaps the unabridged dictionary Gould used?) has it, coupled with the adjective ambisinister : “Left-handed, or clumsy, in the use of both hands.” Both ambisinister and ambisinistrous are missing from the Third .

comments: 2

Sean said...

This reminds me of how 'ambidextrous' is usually taken to mean someone who is equally co-ordinated with both hands, but the Latin roots suggest 'being doubly right-handed.'

A sinister compliment, to be sure.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, it assumes that right-handedness is the default.