Cleg handed?
April 7, 2019 7:39 PM   Subscribe

Reading Henry Green’s novel Living I came across an unfamiliar term I’ve had no luck finding a definition for. About a character Green writes that “it had always gladdened him she was not cleg handed like her mother had been.” What does “cleg handed” mean? From the context I’m guessing it means clumsy or something like that but was hoping for something more specific. The novel is set in Birmingham and features some local dialect.
posted by otio to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I suspect it may be a variant of cack-handed.
posted by zamboni at 7:43 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


The only reference I can find that might help is one that defines it as to limp. Otherwise it's a horsefly. To limp is pretty archaic.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:04 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


I do notice one Urban Dictionary entry defining "cleg" as a dingleberry. No idea if it's legit or not, but it would connect with "cack-handed," as zamboni mentioned.
posted by praemunire at 8:40 PM on April 7


In the UK I heard "clegnuts" meaning dingleberries, so yeah I suspect cleg = cack = shite
posted by Rust Moranis at 9:18 PM on April 7


I am one of those weird Henry Green people, where posh smashes into dialect, and I always read it as a Midlands version of cack-handed, so, stuck with left-handedness, because left-handedness during the era when Green was writing -- where manufactured things with handedness like scissors carried an assumption of right-handedness -- was debilitating.
posted by holgate at 10:17 PM on April 7


It's left handed (source: I live in Birmingham, have heard it called that - as others have suggested it's a variant on 'cack-handed' - it can sometimes seem to mean 'in a clumsy way' but in this context seems pretty specifically an inherited tendency to leftyism).
posted by AFII at 11:55 PM on April 7 [7 favorites]


I would talk about clagnuts for dingleberries, if a dingleberry is what I think it is. 'Clagged up' would mean something like having shoes with a thick layer of mud stuck to them. I've never known anyone turn clag into cleg, though it's not beyond the realms of possibility.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 12:18 AM on April 8


Hello yes! Caggy-handed is the one in my dialect which is next door.
posted by lokta at 1:52 AM on April 8


I would have assumed left-handed, purely because the word for "left" in Irish is "clé". (I wouldn't say that's the origin, just that it's where my mind first went).
posted by rollick at 5:25 AM on April 8


"Klegg" also means filth in Swedish slang, so maybe there's some connection there to cack and cack-handed>cleg-handed.
posted by pinochiette at 8:12 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


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