Ham Handed


What does Ham Handed mean?

Ham handed is a widely known slang expression, used to describe someone as clumsy, inept, or generally unskilled.

A popular derivative of the original phrase, widely used in Britain is Ham Fisted, which adds a short temper to the already clumsy character of a “Ham handed” person.


What's the origin of Ham Handed?

Although the exact origin of the expression is not known, it started to emerge in the late 1910’s.

One of the earliest examples of “Ham handed” however, appeared in print in an 1884 issue of the British magazine “Fabian Tract”.

The phrase is said to have been adopted by Americans in the early 1910’s from the Australian minstrel song written by Walter Cassell, titled “The Ham Fat Man”, which rose to popularity around the same time as the titular expression.

By 1918, various accounts mention the phrase as a slang expression for a clumsy person.

Spread & Usage

How did Ham Handed spread?

“Ham handed” spread in the United States during the early 1900’s, and its popularity continued well into the second half of the century, with even television programs such as “Star Trek” featuring it in Season 2 Episode 11, published in 1967, under the title “Friday’s Child”.

Since the 1980’s, however, “Ham handed” started going out of fashion, appearing in less and less sources over the years.

An entry about the expression was first uploaded to Urban Dictionary on March 10th, 2010, under the title “Ham Hands”.


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