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See also: butter-fingered



From butter +‎ fingered (having fingers (of the specified kind)),[1] an allusion to people tending to drop things because their hands are so slippery that they seem to be covered in butter.



butterfingered (comparative more butterfingered, superlative most butterfingered)

  1. Prone to dropping things; clumsy.
    Synonyms: (rare) ambilevous, ambisinistrous
    • 1615, G[ervase] M[arkham], “[The English Hus-vvife] Of the Outward and Actiue Knowledges of the Hous-wife; and First of Her Skill in Cookery”, in Covntrey Contentments, in Two Bookes: The First, Containing the Whole Art of Riding Great Horses in Very Short Time, [] The Second Intituled, The English Husvvife: [], London: [] I[ohn] B[eale] for R[oger] Iackson, [], →OCLC, page 39:
      [S]hee [a housewife] muſt be cleanly both in body and garments, ſhe muſt haue a quicke eye, a curious noſe, a perfect taſte and a ready care (ſhe muſt not be butter fingered, ſweet-toothed, nor faint hearted); for, the firſt will let euery thing fall, the ſecond will conſume what it ſhould increaſe, and the laſt will looſe time with too much niceneſſe.
    • 1858 January, “Art. VI.—An Essay on the Beneficient Distribution of the Sense of Pain. By G. A. Rowell, [] Oxford, 1857.”, in The London Quarterly Review, American edition, volume XLIX, number I (London edition, volume CIII, number CCV), New York, N.Y.: Published by Leonard Scott & Co., [], →OCLC, page 115, column 2:
      There are few who are ignorant of the circumstance which occurred at the execution of [Arthur] Thistlewood and his fellow conspirators for treason. A thrill of horror ran through the crowd when the first head was severed from its body, but so rapidly did the spectators become accustomed to the sight that on the executioner accidentally letting the third head drop, there was a shout of 'Ah! butter[-]fingered!'
    • 1861, [Nicholas Felix [pseudonym; Nicholas Wanostrocht]], “Rudimentary Lessons on the Use of the Cricket-bat”, in The Cricket-bat; and How to Use It: A Treatise on the Game of Cricket. [], London: Baily Brothers, [], →OCLC, page 32:
      [I]t is always a matter of annoyance to the whole field when one of the party fails in a fair catch, or performs it in a bungling or "butter[-]fingered" style.
    • 1894, [George] Bernard Shaw, “Arms and the Man”, in Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant, 2nd volume (Containing the Four Pleasant Plays), London: Grant Richards, [], published 1898, →OCLC, Act II, page 45:
      Youd better go and slam that bag, too, down on Miss Raina's ice pudding! [This is too much for Nicola. The bag drops from his hand.] Begone, you butter[-]fingered donkey.
    • 1903, Guy de Maupassant, The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant: Ten Volumes in One, volume I, New York, N.Y.: P[eter] F[enelon] Collier & Son Corporation, →OCLC, page 164, column 1:
      Of course, one requires to be a little gifted that way and not to be butter-fingered, but what is chiefly necessary is patience and daily practice for long, long years.
    • 1906, Alfred C[ort] Haddon, “Sympathetic Magic”, in Magic and Fetishism (Religions, Ancient and Modern), London: Archibald Constable & Co Ltd [], →OCLC, pages 11–12:
      When a Land Dyak village has turned out for a wild-pig hunt in the jungle, those who remain at home may not touch water or oil with their hands during the absence of their friends, lest the hunters should all become ‘butter-fingered,’ and the prey so escape them [].
    • 1961, Don Wilson Basham, “The Butter-fingered Fish Hawk”, in The Christian, volume 99, number 26, St. Louis, Mo.: Christian Board of Publication, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 711, column 1:
      One day this butter-fingered fish hawk was flying high over the island carrying a big, fat fish which suddenly slipped from his grasp.
    • 1973, Philip Roth, “Home Sweet Home”, in The Great American Novel, New York, N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, →ISBN; republished London: Vintage, 2016, →ISBN, page 101:
      [T]he Christian gentleman and scholar of the game was enough to convince the roots of that rabid baseball town that this heavy-footed, butterfingered nine had something to do with the Ruppert Mundys of a few years back, those clubs now known as 'the wondrous teams of yore.'
    • 1997, Thomas [Carr] Frank, “Advertising as Cultural Criticism: Bill Bernbach versus the Mass Society”, in The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, Chicago, Ill., London: University of Chicago Press, →ISBN, page 69:
      Even the jolly menials of the consumer world who were always romanticized in older advertising (the admiring butler, the compliant porter, the beloved Philip Morris bellboy) are lampooned in one 1970 American Tourister television commercial: a suitcase is tossed into a zoo cage, snatched up by a particularly violent ape who snorts and growls and smashes it about. Meanwhile, a placid announcer speaks of "savage baggagemasters," "clumsy bellboys," "brutal cab drivers," and "all butter-fingered luggage handlers all over the world." While in earlier spots such humble figures would have been rendered in friendly terms, here they are compared to apes.
    • 2006, Matthew Algeo, “Birds of Steel”, in Last Team Standing: How the Steelers and the Eagles—“the Steagles”—Saved Pro Football during World War II, Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review Press, →ISBN, page 101:
      The Steagles did have a great line and good ball carriers. But their passing game was anemic and they had butterfingered receivers, who dropped passes and fumbled the ball with alarming regularity.
    • 2012, James T. Bennett, “Introduction”, in They Play, You Pay: Why Taxpayers Build Ballparks, Stadiums, and Arenas for Billionaire Owners and Millionaire Players, New York, N.Y.: Copernicus Books, Springer Science+Business Media, →DOI, →ISBN, page 1:
      He watches the team faithfully on television, shouting his approval at the rectangular set or cursing the errors and fumbles of the butterfingered local nine or eleven or six or five.

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  1. ^ butterfingered, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2018; “butterfingered, adj.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.