Posted by Robert on November 14, 2002
In Reply to: Left-handed compliment posted by R. Berg on November 14, 2002
: : Would you please divulge the origin of this phrase? Thank you much...
: A left-handed (or back-handed) compliment is an insult concealed in an apparent compliment and thus is the reverse of a real compliment, as left is the reverse of right. The left side has long been associated with wrongness; see link below for a related series of posts from the archive (www.phrases.org.uk bulletin_board 16 messages 627.html).
Aside from all of the Christian superstitions about "sinister" left-handed" people, there are other reasons for apprehensions about offerings from one's left hand. In many areas of what is called "the developing world", where people eat without utensils, they use only their right hands, since they use their left hands for "toilet-related" functions. Apparently, it is still a tradition in some areas.