Nothing is so ignorant as a man’s left hand, except a lady’s watch.

What did Mark Twain mean by:

Nothing is so ignorant as a man’s left hand, except a lady’s watch.


This quote by Mark Twain humorously points out the inherent clumsiness of a man’s non-dominant hand (typically the left hand) and the unreliability of a woman’s watch. The comparison is meant to underscore the incompetence of both, with a touch of gender humor that was characteristic of Twain’s time.

The first part of the quote, “Nothing is so ignorant as a man’s left hand,” is a metaphorical way of saying that a man’s left hand, often less used and less coordinated, is ‘ignorant’ or unaware of how to perform tasks as efficiently as the right hand. This is particularly true for right-handed individuals, who may struggle with tasks such as writing or eating with their left hand.

The second part of the quote, “except a lady’s watch,” implies that a woman’s watch is even more unreliable than a man’s left hand. During Twain’s time, women’s watches were often seen more as decorative jewelry than precise timekeeping devices. Therefore, they were not always as accurate or dependable as their male counterparts.

Applying this quote to today’s world or personal development, it can be seen as a call to improve upon our weaknesses or areas of ignorance. Just as a man might train his left hand to be as competent as his right, or a woman might seek a watch that is both beautiful and accurate, we can strive to become more proficient in areas where we lack knowledge or skill.

Furthermore, the quote suggests that we should not rely solely on appearances or superficial qualities, as they can often be deceiving. Just as a lady’s watch might look beautiful but fail to keep time accurately, we should not judge things (or people) based on their outward appearance alone. In terms of personal development, this could mean focusing on developing inner qualities and skills rather than just external appearances.

In a broader societal context, the quote also highlights the importance of challenging gender stereotypes and conventions. While the quote plays on stereotypes of men’s physicality and women’s focus on aesthetics, in today’s world, we recognize that these are not inherent or universal truths. Both men and women can strive to be both practical and aesthetically pleasing, in their personal lives and in the objects they use.

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