Sunday, June 07, 2009

"Wot a south paw he has given me!"

I ran across an 1848 illustration that is interesting both because it includes Millard Fillmore and because it contains an early use of the term "south paw".

Yahoo Answers asserts that the term "southpaw", referring to left-handed pitchers, dates back to 1885, but notes that "south paw 'a person's left hand' is attested from 1848 in the slang of pugilism." If so, the illustration apparently records one of the first uses of the term. Bowery B'hoy Lewis Cass (the Democratic presidential candidate in 1848) has decked poor Millard (the Whig nominee for vice president). Lying on the ground with a black eye, Millard cries out, "Curse the Old hoss wot a south paw he has given me!"

All of which raises the question: was Lewis Cass left-handed?

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