This rough-and-tumble colloquial slang term refers to a left-handed person. Brought to Australia in the early twentieth century by British and Irish speakers, the colloquial phrase “mollydooker” or “mollyduker” became a popular way to describe left-handed fighters who always got a bad rap in Australian culture.
The Meaning of the Phrase
While the term “mollydooker” evokes the image of fisticuffs and brawls in streets and back alleys, the phrase emerged by the 1930s, particularly in Australia, to describe a weak fighter. A synonym for the phrase is “southpaw”, which similarly refers to someone who fights with the “wrong” or left hand.
The Origin of the Phrase
This interesting phrase for a sissy fighter came from the UK and traveled with people who spoke various English dialects to Australia where it was first recorded in the 1920s.
The first part of the phrase comes from the term molly which refers to an effeminate type of man who does women’s work instead of traditionally masculine activities. The second half of the phrase dook or duke + er refers to dukes or hands. This is like the American phrase to duke it out or fight with your fists.
Although this term has an Irish ring to it, the phrase has an origin story that harks back to the rough London streets in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Some etymology experts theorize that “molly” comes from Cockney slang for a feminized man, while dukker might come from a Romany term for reading fortunes by palmistry.
In fact, the way it was used colloquially during the term’s heyday, it’s more likely that “mollydooker” refers to a man who is perceived as weak or effeminate because he fights or punches with his left hand.
It’s no secret that for centuries in Europe and elsewhere, left-handed people were viewed with fear and suspicion. Since most people used their right hand as a dominant hand for working or fighting, people who used their left hands were viewed as evil, unfortunate, susceptible to witchcraft, or cursed by the gods.
There are also strong hints of chauvinism and anti-homosexuality in the phrase since it implies that a “mollydooker” is less of a man, or a molly-hander, if he fought with the “wrong” or the left hand rather than dominating the situation with his right hand like the majority of other men in British or Australian cultures.