Oct 052009
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Deep Questions

Over the weekend, I heard the term “Southpaw” used. Now I know it means a person who is left-handed, but never understood where it came from. So, I decided to find out.

Of course one usually hears it in the context of baseball, and that is where the term originated. In the early days of baseball, the baseball diamonds were laid out with the corner at home plate pointing west. This design was to avoid having the batter facing the afternoon sun. (As the batter is facing the pitcher, he’s facing east.)

This means that pitchers were typically facing west (obviously), which means that the pitcher’s left arm/hand would be on the south-side of his body.

It’s also commonly used in reference to left-handed boxers, but also to any boxer who uses a stance with the right foot in front of the left. This is often referred to as a “southpaw stance.”

According to Wikipedia, only about 7 to 10 percent of the population is left-handed, and many of those exhibit some degree of ambidexterity. ((Wikipedia – Left-handedness)) My guess is this is due to the fact that so many implements are geared towards right handed use, that southpaws have to adapt to some degree.

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Comments (1)
  1. As someone who is left-handed, I’ve often wondered about this but never bothered to look it up, so I greatly appreciate you sharing it. It’s odd. I’ve read a few books about lefties and they mainly deal with how we are (supposedly) more creative, less linear, more fun to be around, and also subject to the prejudices of a right-handed world. You’d think a little thing like why we’re called “southpaws” would get more prominence, since it’s a verifiable fact. Trust me: I’ve known some left-handers who were neither creative nor particularly fun to be around.

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