Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A to Z challenge: D - Dexterity

Dexterity

Dungeons and Dragons nerds will know this as one of the six fundamental attributes of all characters. Who doesn't remember STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, and CHA? Most of you have no idea what I'm talking about? Crap. Sorry, never mind.

It's still a cool word though, and though the noun might be difficult to fit into your writing, dextrous makes a great adjective.

dex·ter·i·ty [dekˈsterəti] n. 1. Skill and grace in physical movement, especially in the use of the hands; adroitness.
2. Mental skill or adroitness; cleverness.

Synonyms: 1. skill, mastery, touch, craft, finesse, artistry, proficiency, smoothness, neatness, deftness, nimbleness, handiness (I personally always thought agility was a near-synonym for dexterity, if not an actual synonym, but in my searches it doesn't come up)
2. cleverness, art, ability, ingenuity, readiness, aptitude, adroitness, aptness, expertness, skilfulness

Etymology: 1520s, from M.Fr. dexterité (16c.), from L. dexteritatem (nom. dexteritas) "readiness, skillfulness, prosperity," from dexter "skillful," also "right (hand)" (cf. O.Fr. destre, Sp. diestro, etc.), from PIE root *deks- "on the right hand," hence "south" to one facing east (cf. Skt. daksinah "on the right hand, southern, skillful;" Avestan dashina- "on the right hand;" Gk. dexios "on the right hand," also "fortunate, clever;" O.Ir. dess "on the right hand, southern;" Welsh deheu; Gaulish Dexsiva, name of a goddess of fortune; Goth. taihswa; Lith. desinas; O.C.S. desnu, Rus. desnoj). The Latin form is with the comparative suffix -ter, thus meaning etymologically "the better direction." M.E. dester meant "right hand," and in heraldry dexter means "on the right side."

Sorry this one got so long, but man, that etymology is no joke. Apparently, historically, people thought left-handedness was for idiots.

72 comments:

Lynda R Young said...

Ha! I briefly played D&D so yeah, I'm familiar with dex.

I hurt just looking at the picture...

Em-Musing said...

Cool word, and in my dreams I can shoot a bow and arrow with my feet.

Emily White said...

I am very dexterous. You should see me walk up stairs WITHOUT tripping. Yeah...be amazed.

Huntress said...

Ah, so NOW I know what I am lacking. Dexterity. But I do have the ability to carry a cup of coffee, the newspaper, and my computer mouse to the 'puter chair at the same time.

hm.

Alyssia said...

Big D&D nerd here. Love the pic and the post on dexterity. Good stuff!

Abigail@The Story Factory Reading Zone said...

Dropping by from the A-Z challenge. Never played 'Dungeons and Dragons' but know what you're talking about from other games I played in my youth.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sorry I was one of those who don't know anything about D&D. Great D word.

JeffO said...

Left-handedness was indeed not seen as a good trait. My Dad was a lefty, my wife IS a lefty, and so is my younger daughter.

Anyway - I remember D&D. Good times. And it's still going strong. There's a D&D club at the local high school.

Mary said...

Did you roll for each one, or roll 8, tossing out the highest and lowest roll, and then assign as you wanted to STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, and CHA? (we did the latter!)

Nice tie in for dexterity.

farawayeyes said...

My mother was so against lefties she would grab things from my children's left hand an put it in their right. Today both of them are pretty much ambidextrous. so am I. wonder if Mom did that, or it's just how we came.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know what you are talking about!

Rusty Webb said...

That's great stuff. So naming a kid Dexter was the same as naming him 'right hand'. Go figure.

Danielle B. said...

I think I was "built" to be the completely polar opposite of dexterity.

Great word!

Rick Daley said...

I knew what you were talking about!

FYI...the word dexterity comes from the Latin dexter, meaning right. Sinister is derived from the Latin sinistra meaning left. History has not been kind to lefties.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A good word and an excellent post to accompany it.

Yvonne.

sterlingsop said...

I like your post and I love your A-Z challenge theme. I'm looking forward to learning more from you as the month unfolds!!

Bish Denham said...

I never played D&D... But I loved reading about dexterous. On the right hand... because most of us are right handed.

Tonja said...

D&D, huh? I thought there was something familiar about you. I didn't play but feel strangely comfortable with the D&D crowd.

A Daft Scots Lass said...

Only ever played D&D when I was high.

HeatherL said...

Still a gamer after all these years and DEX is always my favorite skill! In real life my DEX grants me a +7 but my STR and CON are negatives!

Shannon Cyr said...

Oh! Maybe I can qualify as a D&D nerd since I thought if it the minute I read "Dexterity!" Michael will be so proud.

Slamdunk said...

Interesting Matthew. With the left-handedness, now every sports dad tries to teach his son to hit, shoot, or kick as a lefty. Funny how things change. Sort of like how tanning used to be viewed as the sign of a common worker.

Cherie Reich said...

Unfortunately I never got around to D&D, but man, that picture is awesome. It would be cool to be able to shoot an arrow like that.

Leovi said...

Yes, I would have a great mental dexterity, and also for music, I'm very bad.

Sarah Ahiers said...

That chick is AMAZING! I wonder if she can actually shoot the arrow, though, or just draw the bow? And i bet her accuracy is probably crap. But still!

Nancy Thompson said...

Hey look at that, a word I know! You think Dexter, the TV serial killer, was named this for a reason? Hmm... Interesting thing about the whole lefty concept. I always wanted to be one since the most creative people seemed to always be lefties. It's the artist in me, I guess.

Cassie Mae said...

If I remember right, those represent Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

Ya, I'm showing off a little.

I'm with Nancy, I'm jealous of the lefties. I wish I was one. They always seem to be able to do anything with both hands actually. Maybe there are no lefties, just ambidextrous people.

mshatch said...

of course I remember! As a thief, high dexterity was quite important ;)

Catherine Stine said...

Good word! And, wow, that picture you have on the top is pretty stunning. I can hardly shoot and arrow standing upright.

Clarissa Draper said...

I don't have a lot of dexterity when it comes to def #1 but I'm working on improving my def #2.

Susanne Drazic said...

I can say I've heard of Dungeons & Dragons. Never played it myself.

Susanne
PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER

Claire Hennessy said...

Where did you get that picture of me??! Hurrumph!

Old Kitty said...

Hence "Dexter" the serial killing amazing series!! Yay! Take care
x

Lynn Proctor said...

two of my sons are lefties---and at least one of them played d&d i think!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Great post. Back in the dark ages, when I was in elementary school, southpaws were treated horribly by teachers.

Shaun_ShutterBug said...

I think i know that woman... Hmmm, well i wish i did ;). She is very talented.
Have a nice day
Shaun
Valleys ShutterBug

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

My favorite class to play when I used to play D&D was a rogue or thief. Their primary requisite was dexterity and I always imagined my character being the nimblest person. My friend Sean always played these really big warriors and always wanted to have a high strength score. One time I got some kind of magic girdle or belt that made me have a super dexterity...like godlike. That was so awesome.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Not just D&D fans, any of those RPG games. Brings back memories of the early versions of Final Fantasy type games. We used to play them on our Atari computer (not game console-computer).

Johanna Garth said...

Dexterity makes me think of the Dr. Seuss quote to "always be dexterous and deft and never mix up your right foot with your left."

Erin M. Hartshorn said...

Totally get the D&D reference. ;)

Yes, left-handed people have always been looked down on -- compare dextrous to sinister.

Erin

Heather M. Gardner said...

I know what you're talking about! I'm a proud recovering D&D player!

These are great posts. I just caught up and I'll be back.

HMG

judysnwnotes said...

and what is needed as a writer, really, is dexterity -- you have it!

Zan Marie said...

Matthew, the Romans who gave use this word also called the left hand sinster! Yep, left handedness was BAD! ; )

Phoenix said...

Being a huge nerd who grew up playing D&D, I can say you rolled a Natural 20 when writing this post. :)

I love the concept of Dexterity... alas, it does not love me as much. I have given myself a concussion walking into a tree, hit my head getting into my own car numerous times, constantly slam my elbows and feet into tables and chairs (and I'm SMALL, so I have zero excuse) and oh yeah, I once closed the fridge door on my own head.

I do roll a d12 on my sense of humor, though...

Gossip_Grl said...

WOW the picture made my back hurt.:) but with the right hand/left hand thing I had to use my left hand more after an injury to my right hand left me with some nerve damage. Interesting info thanks for sharing

Dana said...

I just found your blog via the A to Z Challenge. Love the theme!

Karen S. Elliott said...

I am enjoying your A-Z so much. Love the picture on this one, though I'd like to see her after a couple of kids, a few surgeries, menopause, and mid-life spread! :)

Jessica Salyer said...

I never played D&D. Somedays I have dexterity and somedays I'm just a clutz. You never can tell which day it's going to be. :)

Laura said...

And I'm one of those nerds who do :)

Have you seen Columbiana? I think Zoe Saldana epitomises the word in the main role - just watch her movement!
Lx

Andrew Leon said...

Dexterity and agility are similar terms, but they're not really the same. For instance, you would say that a magician, who is very good with his hands, is dextrous, not agile. An acrobat is agile but necessarily dextrous.
Dexterity is skill in small, focused movements while agility is about being quick.

And just by the way, D&D plays an important role in my book.

Sarah Pearson said...

I don't know if it's true or an urban myth but apparently left-handers are mentioned several times in the bible and they're all evil!

I love being left handed :-)

M Pax said...

I must be a real geek. I love reading etymologies. It's the part of the dictionary I like best.

ediFanoB said...

Dexterity is also used in other games.

I love being both handed. A lot of people are envious that I can use a hammer or other tools with left and right hand.
But there are limitations. You can't use a right handed scissor with the left hand.

D.G. Hudson said...

Lefties probably get more character from learning how to deal with naysayers.

I sprained my right hand and had to use my left for a while. Made me think, I couldn't run on automatic. I like being a little ambidextrous.

becca said...

i have mad skill i can trip on air flawlessly

Arlee Bird said...

Don't know what you were talking about in the opening paragraph, but I certainly understand dexterity. In the field of juggling dexterity is a term often used to describe the art. Good theme your using. A bit of vocabulary expansion is something we can always use. I'd never heard of batholith and cuirass --neither has my spell-check apparently.


Lee
A Few Words
An A to Z Co-host blog

A Quiet Corner said...

Dexterity...haven't felt that way since I was a young whippersnapper! LOL!...:)JP

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

dude.
that pic....
whoah!

Got Teen Fiction? said...

I love this. Dexterity is such a cool vocabulary word that resonates in D&D land like thunder from the gods. My son and I had our first D&D game about two months ago and he said he's ready for another. My son has also discovered toe-erity - the ability to manipulate and pick up things with his toes.

Joe Lunievicz said...

Sorry. Last comment was from me. I hit the publish too fast. - Joe

kmckendry said...

Love the picture! So cool!

Elana Johnson said...

Yeah, you totally had me lost there for a minute. Ha!

Adam said...

Love the easy to digest linguistics! I will be back for sure.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I WOULD HAVE BEEN a D&D nerd, if the guys in my high school hadn't had a strict "no girls" rule.

That etymology is enormous - please tell me you copy-pasted it from somewhere.

I remember "dexter" from Latin, and I also remember that "left" was "sinister" in Latin. They really had it in for lefties.

Jamie Gibbs said...

I love etymology, and how languages link up with each other with certain words.

We lefties have been getting a bad press for years. First we were idiots, then we were the Devil's pool boy, and we've been told we'll live shorter lives. We can't get a break :)


Jamie Gibbs
Fellow A-Z Buddy
Mithril Wisdom

happenence said...

I used to sit next to a left handed guy in lectures. It worked perfectly if he was sat to my left, but awfully if he was on my right.

mindthagap said...

Love that picture! I agree dexterity is a great word, and it has so many wonderful nuances. You can be talking about someone's spirit, physical ability, temperament or even their mind.

Traci Kenworth said...

Wow. Can you imagine being able to shoot that bow and arrow with your feet? The one thing that downplays that is: in a war, would that be a useful thing? How could you run and shoot at the same time? Sorry, just a thought.

Jay Noel said...

Thanks for the 80s TSR D&D flashback. Yikes!

Bryan Russell said...

I always liked nimble folk in D&D...

Joshua said...

Back in my D&D days, whenever I was out and about with my friends and trip or stumble, assuming I didn't fall over, I would freeze for a few seconds and then say, "I have the dexterity of a tree." I still tell this joke today, but no one gets it.

Simon Kewin said...

And of course the latin for left-handed is "sinister" - which has acquired quite different overtones since then ...

And yes, I am that D&D nerd!