two left hands

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Calque of French avoir deux mains gauches.



two left hands pl (plural only)

  1. (idiomatic) Lacking dexterity in either hand; being ambilevous
    • 1828, Mrs Margaret Dods [pseudonym; Christian Isobel Johnstone], The Cook and Housewife's Manual: Containing the Most Approved Modern Receipts for Making Soups, Gravies, Sauces, Ragouts, and All Made-dishes; and for Pies, Puddings, Pickles, and Preserves; Also, for Baking, Brewing, Making Home-made Wines, Cordials, &c. ..., Third edition, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, OCLC 1087440393, page 37:
      There are awkward grownup persons, having, as the French say, two left hands, whom no labour will ever make dexterous carvers;
    • 1847, William Hogan, Auricular Confession and Popish Nunneries, volume 1, Hartford: Silas Andrus and Son, OCLC 14632221, page 142:
      [Orestes] Brownson is one of those characters. He has two left hands, and was never known to do anything right; whatever he touches he is sure to despoil and disfigure.
    • 1905, R. E. Francillon, “Left-Handed Elsa”, in H. Chalmers Roberts, editor, Tales from "Blackwood": Being the most Famous Series of Stories ever Published Selected from that Celebrated English Publication (1), volume 1, New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, OCLC 989443001, pages 1-2:
      "Oh Max, it must be true what father says, and I've got two left hands instead of one; what a scolding I'm in for!"
    • 1995, Jason R. Taylor and Jacob Birnbaum, I Kept My Promise: My Story of Holocaust Survival, 1st edition, Jason R. Taylor Associates, →ISBN, page 73:
      So, when the factory issued a requisition for ten workers, the commandant picked the worst candidates--sick people like me, and those schlemiels with two left hands and two right feet, who he knew couldn't get the job done.
    • 2002, Marian Annett, Handedness and Brain Asymmetry: The Right Shift Theory, New York: Psychology Press, →ISBN, page 23:
      Ambidexterity means equal skill with both hands, as contrasted with the term “ambilevous” meaning equally unskilled with both hands (or described as having “two left hands”).
    I've never been good at sewing; I guess I've got two left hands.
  2. Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see two,‎ left,‎ hands.
    • 1958 June, Benoytosh Bhattacharyya, The Indian Buddhist Iconography, Second edition, Calcutta: K. L. Mukhopadhyay, page 151:
      They sit in the Vajraparyahka attitude and show in the two right hands the boon and the arrow drawn up to the ear, and in the two left hands the Utpala and the bow.

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