George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Tue Sep 18 01:07:37 UTC 2007

The favorite on our club was a long-legged boy named Quirk who had mastered a curve that would have been a joke to a professional ball player but that baffled nearly every young batter who ever faced him.  ***  We called it an out-drop, for it faded quickly down and away from a right-handed batter; ball players of an earlier day would have named it a cunny-thumb curve.  Ordinarily it was thrown by bending the thumb at the first knuckle. . . .  But Quirk threw it by holding his thumb up and away from his fingers as he threw the ball.
Robert Smith, Baseball in the Afternoon: Tales from a Bygone Era, N. Y, &c: Simon & Schuster, 1993, p. 29.  Smith was born in 1905.

"Cunny-thumbed" also appears in Joyce's Ulysses, with reference, if I recall, to shooting marbles.  It's not in OED or HDAS; it is in Jonathon's Cassell's Dictionary, citing Grose.  Grose explains that it is as a fist made with the thumb bent and enclosed within the fingers, "like a woman".  So this would be applicable to the correct grip of this curve, though not to Quirk's quirky grip.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

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