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Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Dear Mr. Lederer: Watching college football, my husband and I witnessed an interesting play where the snap was bad, the kicker grabbed the ball for an unplanned drop-kick and changed feet at the last minute as he scrambled for space. The announcer stated that the kicker kicked “ambidextrously.” This began one of those rambling marital discussions we all love. I am right handed, my husband is a lefty. I understand that if I were to develop my abilities with the opposing hand, I would be deemed ambidextrous. My question is this: If my southpaw spouse were to similarly develop his opposing hand, should he not be called “ambisinistrous”?

— Kate Baker Tilton, Poway

Ambidextrous derives from Latin roots meaning “using both the left and right hands with equal ease,” Thus, I question whether one can kick ambidextrously.

The opposite of ambidextrous is ambisinister: “clumsy, as if possessing two left hands.” To the estimated 10% of the world’s population that is left-handed, many devices, from doorknobs to school desks, from athletic gear to musical instruments, from can openers to scissors and flush handles on toilets seem designed for righties. We can also ask if language itself favors the right-handed majority.

Right started out in life as an adjective that meant “straight, lawful, true, genuine, just good, fair, proper and fitting.” Only later did right come to signify the right hand or right side. Ever since, right suggests correctness, importance and rectitude, to which it is etymologically related:

• You are in the right about this issue.

• Throckmorton is the boss’s right-hand man.

• Her left hand doesn’t know what the right one is doing.

The bias toward the right side and against the left extends beyond English. One who is skilled is dexterous, from the Latin dexter, meaning “right, on the right hand,” and adroit, from the French a droit, “to the right.”

On the other hand — the left one, of course — language appears to libel the left-handed:

• That sounds like a left-handed compliment to me.

• When it comes to grammar, I feel out in left field.

• Pringle is not only gauche in cocktail conversation but gawky on the dance floor. He seems to have two left feet.

Prejudice against the left-handed minority is embedded in many languages. Sinister, the Latin for “left, on the left hand,” yields the darkly threatening sinister in English, while the French word for “left hand” is gauche, the debasement of which is gawky.

Now, let’s look at ambidextrous as a treasure trove of letter play. Note that ambidextrous is a 12-letter word in which the first six letters — ambide — are drawn from the left-hand side of the alphabet and the second six letters — xtrous — are from the right side. So ambidextrous is itself ambidextrous.

Ambidextrous is also a 12-letter isogram, meaning that no letter is repeated. The word remains an isogram with a sixth vowel in the 14-letter ambidextrously, in which the vowels a, e, i, o, u and y appear in almost alphabetical order. After the 15-letter uncopyrightable, ambidextrously is our longest isogram.

Note that Kate Baker Tilton identifies her husband as a “southpaw.” Southpaw is a slang term for a left-handed person, but do you know why? The answer can be found in our great American pastime, baseball.

Most early baseball diamonds were laid out with the pitcher’s mound to the east of home plate. With the westward orientation of home plate the batter wouldn’t have to battle the afternoon sun in his eyes. Thus, as a right-handed pitcher wound up, he faced north — and a left-handed pitcher south. South + paw (“hand”) = southpaw.

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