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AMBIDEXTROUS

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AMBIDEXTROUS

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Aug 22, 2006 11:32 pm

• ambidextrous •

Pronunciation: æm-bê-dek-strês • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Equally dexterous or adroit with both hands (literally, having two right hands). 2. Two-faced, double-dealing, humoring both sides simultaneously, talking out of both sides of one's mouth.

Notes: The spelling of today's Good Word has been affected by its pronunciation: dexterous retains the E of Latin dexter "right-handed" but ambidextrous drops it. Keep in mind, however, that it pops back up in the noun, ambidexterity. (Funny little critter, isn't it?) The antonym is ambisinistrous "having two left hands, equally clumsy in both hands".

In Play: Boy, I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous! If I were, I would be able to do things equally well with either hand: "Hardy Mehl is pretty clumsy (ambisinistrous) when it comes to work but he is an absolutely ambidextrous eater at mealtime." Let's not lose sight of the second sense of today's word, though, "A successful labor negotiator has to be ambidextrous when dealing with both sides of the negotiations."

Word History: Today's word is an alteration of archaic ambidexter (with the skittish E mentioned above) which meant "double dealer" in Middle English. Both words come from Medieval Latin ambi- "on both sides" + Latin dexter "right-handed", so the original idea was "having two right hands". Ambi originally meant "from both sides" but came to mean "around", a meaning its descendants, like ambulate, bear today. We also see its traces in German um "around" and the om in Swedish ombudsman. The bud in that word comes from an Old Norse word (bodh) that meant "command", so that an ombudsman was (and remains) a man who finds ways around (om) the line of command in an organization. (Chuck Lee is a dexterous logophile who sees about getting Good Words like today's to us when he spots them.)
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Wed Aug 23, 2006 9:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby gailr » Wed Aug 23, 2006 1:42 am

My mom is ambidextrous, her kids aren't. Too bad; it's a neat trick to sign your name with either hand and have it look the same. (Although, by this criteria, I think some of us have already established ambidexterity of a sort: see the Cursive vs Print thread.)

Should not be confused with Aquadextrous (possessing the ability to turn the bathtub faucet on and off with your toes).

Ambisinistrous: I like this one as well.

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Postby skinem » Wed Aug 23, 2006 8:57 am

gailr wrote:Ambisinistrous: I like this one as well.

-gailr


Ambisinistrous! That's funny, I don't care who you are.
Evil on both sides? Equally threatening? Not quite as serious as multifarious or it's better known cousin ne?

And, by the way, welcome Aviatrix! Looks like you'll fit in fine. Just remember that we are a deadly serious bunch here.
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Postby Perry » Wed Aug 23, 2006 9:09 am

Should not be confused with Aquadextrous (possessing the ability to turn the bathtub faucet on and off with your toes).


I love that one Gailr.

There is also elbowdextrous; the ability to steer an automobile with your elbows, in order to free up your hands to blow your nose or play a harmonica.
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Postby scw1217 » Wed Aug 23, 2006 9:59 am

I love both aquadextrous and elbowdextrous. Many has been the joke over the years about my family's ability to pick things up with our toes. What would we call that? LOL.

But what set me thinking about this word was the "two right hands" and "two left hands" comment and its connotation with left-handedness being clumsy and vice versa. Being a left-hander, though only in my writing, I always find it fascinating that people over the ages associated the left or right hand with being one or the other, though I know it was fairly common to do so.

I could not survive without using mine! :D And you'd hate to read my writing otherwise!
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Postby Bailey » Wed Aug 23, 2006 11:02 am

What if I couldn't write gud with either hand?

mark not-illiterate-exactly Bailey

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Postby scw1217 » Wed Aug 23, 2006 7:47 pm

Bailey wrote:What if I couldn't write gud with either hand?

mark not-illiterate-exactly Bailey


Isn't that antidextrous? :D
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