Australian terms referring to left-handedness



There are, in Australian English, several colloquial terms referring to left-handedness:
– (in the chronological order in which they first occurred) the following adjectives mean left-handed: molly-handed, mauldy and molly-dooked;
– (in the chronological order in which they first occurred) the following nouns designate a left-handed person: molly-hander, mauldy and molly-dook.




First explanation: According to Sidney John Baker (1912-1976) in The Australian Language (Sydney and London: Angus and Robertson Ltd., 1945):
molly and mauldy derive from the noun mauley, denoting the hand or fist;
dook is the noun duke, denoting the hand or fist.
—This is the relevant passage from The Australian Language, by Sidney John Baker:

From boxing we have acquired kiss the cross, to be knocked out; catcuff, a light blow; fork-hander, mauldy and mollydooker, a left-handed boxer (taken from the old English mauley and dook or duke, the fist or hand).

(In A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (Sydney University Press in association with Oxford University Press Australia, 1990), Gerald Alfred Wilkes (1927-2020) also suggests that molly derives from the noun mauley.)

The noun mauley is first recorded in Life’s Painter of Variegated Characters in Public and Private Life. To which is added, A Dictionary of modern Flash, or Cant Language, so much in use with the Swells of the Town (London: Printed by R. Bassam, [1800?]), by the British actor and public lecturer George Parker (1732-1800):

Oh, here’s an old pal of mine, (speaking to one of the crowd) I say, how are you? slang us your mauly; what lock do you cut now?
Slang boys. Boys of the slang; fellows who speak the slang language, which is the same as flash and cant, but the word slang is applied differently; when one asks the other to shake hands, that is, slang us your mauly.
Dobbin rig. Dobbin is ribbon; going upon the dobbin, is a woman dressed like a servant maid, no hat nor cloak on, a bunch of young dubs by her side, which are a bunch of small keys, a Queen Elizabeth in her maully, that is, the key of the street door in her hand, a cream-pot in the other.

In the sense of the hand or fist, the noun duke, or dook, is first recorded in The Slang Dictionary, Etymological, Historical, and Anecdotal (London: Chatto and Windus, 1874):

Dukes, or dooks, the hands, originally modification of the rhyming slang, “Duke of Yorks,” forks = fingers, hands—a long way round, but quite true. The word is in very common use among low folk. “Put up your dooks” is a kind invitation to fight.

Second explanation: According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED – online edition, June 2022):
– by association of left-handedness with inferiority and weakness, molly is the noun denoting a girl, a woman, an effeminate boy or man (here, molly is from Molly, pet form of the female forename Mary);
dook is the noun duke, denoting the hand or fist.

The OED also conjectures that mauldy is a shortened form of either molly-dook or molly-dooked.
Note: The earliest occurrence of mauldy that the OED has recorded is from Timely Tips for New Australians (London: The Empire Publishing Co., 1926), by ‘Jice Doone’ (James Vance Marshall – 1887-1964).




The earliest occurrences that I have found of molly-handed, molly-hander, mauldy, molly-dooked and molly-dook are as follows, in chronological order:




1-: From the account of a cricket match, published in the Coburg Leader (Coburg, Victoria) of Wednesday 22nd October 1890:

The team was certainly a mixed one, representing various shades of cricket, from the “molly-handed” batter to the red-hot champion slogger.

2-: From The Peerybingle Papers, by John Peerybingle, published in The Weekly Times (Melbourne, Victoria) of Saturday 5th August 1893:

“An Old Boy” writes to me in criticism of the cartoon “Patterson’s Doubtful game.” He remarks caustically, “The man can’t spin the top ’cause he’s got it wound up the wrong way, and directly he hits it with the whip it will stop unless he’s a molly hander.” This is ominous!

3-: From the account of a cricket match between England and Australia, published in The Australasian (Melbourne, Victoria) of Saturday 22nd December 1894:

He is a fine left-hand bat, though with so little of the awkwardness of “molly-handers” that many fail to notice it.

4-: From the account of a cricket match between England and Australia, published in the Day Dawn Chronicle (Day Dawn, Western Australia) of Wednesday 30th July 1902:

Clem Hill, who is a perfect delavel in test matches, made 65 without a blush, but Hopkins put a 50 per cent. discount on this by his partiality for “duck.” Darling, the molly-handed, raked in 51 but all the others were passengers.




1-: From The Sport of Fishing, by Charles Thackeray, Late hon. sec. Amateur Fishermen’s Association, published in The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 18th January 1896:

Whipping gut on to the hook is an awkward job for the beginner, but practice makes perfect. The instructions herein given are for “dexter” folk, not those the boys call “mauldies.” First lay the two ends of the gut pointed in opposite directions along the shaft and hold [&c.].

2-: From The Bowral Free Press (Bowral, New South Wales) of Saturday 15th February 1902:


On Wednesday afternoon last, the old Recreation Ground, Mittagong, was the scene of a very exciting cricket match between teams of ladies and gentlemen, which resulted in a win for the ladies by 78 runs. The gentlemen were as usual, handicapped by having to bat, bowl, and field with the “mauldy” hand.

3-: From Gossip, by ‘Shortslip’, published in The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, New South Wales) of Wednesday 26th November 1902:

We haven’t many left-handers in Sydney who are first class, and there is an excellent opening for one who perseveres and succeeds in obtaining a good command over the ball.
And talking about left-handers naturally suggests to one the name of Saunders, the Victorian and member of the Australian Eleven. Previous to the trip just drawing to a close selectors of Australian elevens placed little confidence in what left-handed bowlers we had, and indeed the selection of Saunders for England was made at the eleventh hour. His success, however, has paved the way for high-class left-handers, and we may look forward to one, even though he may not be the class of Saunders, securing a place in future teams. Englishmen would never think of playing a team to represent England without a “mauldy.”

4-: From the account of a cricket match, published in the Sydney Sportsman (Sydney, New South Wales) of Wednesday 11th January 1911:

In came Norton, the colt, who is a mauldy batsman.




1-: From the account of a cricket match, published in The Westralian Worker (Kalgoorlie, Western Australia) of Friday 27th January 1911:

Jones 4 for 53 and Carter 2 for 19 got in amongst the wickets; but slow-’un Farrell had no success with his mollydooked ones.

2-: From the account of a boxing match, published in the Weekly Judge (Perth, Western Australia) of Friday 21st March 1919:

Jack McAdam got all over a much taller opponent, whose stoush monniker, if I remember correctly, was “Skinny” Evans. Mac is a neat, cool little boxer, and the possessor of a good “molly” dook. His elongated opponent showed grit in galore, but telegraphed so palpably every swipe that the nimble Mac easily evaded stopping ’em. Mac drove his left flush on his opponent’s proboscis in the first round, tapping the claret in copious quantities, and despite the most assiduous attention on Frank Graham’s part, the flow continued until the termination of the third round, when Paddy Bastow declared McAdam the winner amidst salvos of applause.

3-: From The Australian Worker (Sydney, New South Wales) of Thursday 12th January 1922:


Campbell was spending a holiday at his old home, amidst the scenes of his youth and his young manhood.
And it was the saddest time of his life!
His aged mother’s favorite walk was to the cemetery, close by their cottage. Campbell never went to a cemetery if he could help it, but every afternoon his mother remembered that she wanted him to see the grave of some old friend.
Then there was a long street not far away that always reminded him of that night when he had walked miles up and down it, and up and down it, because a girl had refused to marry him.
And one lonely white lane that went to the river’s edge he never passed without shrinking. Gray, his best friend, had taken his last walk down it, on his way to seek eternity.
Campbell must have been unduly sensitive.
In every street of his native city he could see himself bounding along with the long-past spring of youth, as he ran errands for a grinding boss, or tramped its pavements in sadder days, looking for work.
Not a street but held some painful memory.
“Lucky chap!” his friends said when he returned. “You’ve had a happy time calling on old sweethearts, and talking over your early exploits at cricket—your famous ‘leg breaks,’ and ‘square arms,’ and ‘molly dooks!’ Ah, there’s no holiday like one spent in the old scenes, recalling old-time memories!”

4-: From the boxing column When the Gong Goes, by Jim Donald, published in Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 4th February 1922—the following is about the Australian boxer Havilah Uren (1900-1971):

In the land of the vanished Maraschino, he would be called a south-paw. Out here we term ’em “molly-dooks.”

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