A southpaw is a left-hander or the left hand. Today, the word is primarily used in baseball, but appears in other contexts as well. But despite its use in baseball, the term almost certainly did not originate with that sport. Use of southpaw to mean the left hand goes back all the way to 1813, long before baseball, as we know it today, existed. It’s used in a letter appearing in the Philadelphia newspaper The Tickler on 30 June of that year:
“Luk here mon, and convince yourself,” said he, holding up the Tickler, in the right paw, between the ceiling and the floor, and with the south paw pointing to the “bow, vow, vow.”
The south is most likely simply a reference to the opposite orientation than is usual and the paw is self-explanatory.
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton