FIRSTHAND AND SECONDHAND; A humorously logical perspective


It was long ago in my early childhood that I first heard the word “Secondhand”. It did not strike me in any way then, but when I heard it again a little later I started thinking about it. It occurred to me that it was one of the two hands that humans have, but which one? May be if you are a right hander, then your right hand is the first hand and left hand is the secondhand and vice versa. But then I thought that if we go by this analogy, then there should be a secondeye as well secondear and secondleg also, which had not been heard before. As the issue became complicated I decided to discuss it with a class fellow.

The next day, I took up the matter with my class fellow nicknamed Khardamaag (rough mannered) due to his snobbishness although he was a very good student. After hearing my story he replied that he would help me, but first I should tell him what I think is meant by Secondhand. I told him my hypothesis about right hander and left hander people and he started ridiculing me. As he was known for his harsh manners nobody took notice and I was saved from becoming an object of derision. After completing his tirade, he came back to the topic and I was really surprised to know from him that there was also a distinct “Firsthand” and both Firsthand and Secondhand have nothing to do with human hands. He informed me about the meaning of the two words, but he could not satisfy me about the reason of the presence of the word “Hand” in them.

With the entry of Firsthand even before solving the mystery of Secondhand it became quite a challenge for my mind. I, therefore, decided to start my odyssey for the search of the hands behind the two words.

After a lot of thought, and spending good amount of time I reached the following conclusions in little less than one year in total after first becoming acquainted with them.

from-the-horses-mouthResearching Firsthand first and looking at its definition that says “Coming directly from actually experiencing or seeing something”, I found that in meaning it was very near to the idiom “Straight from the horse’s mouth”. But again what it had to do with hand? Although hand feeds the mouth it cannot replace mouth in any manner. Yes mouth can bite the hand, but a part of hand, i.e fingers and thumb can be converted into a fist to box the mouth. Going more deeply it appeared to me that Firsthand had some relation/connection with the experience gained for the first time via the medium of hand. To me centuries ago someone sometime came across something for the first time and in order to know about it more touched it with his own hand and then declared the feeling he got, e.g. hard, soft, brittle, etc. and later this process in future was given the name of Firsthand.

clockAs for Secondhand it means things that have been previously used or owned. Anything completely new is excluded from its definition. While Firsthand was related to information, Secondhand dealt with things. While going through the things that may be owned or used as Secondhand I found that clock was one thing that looked to have some connection with the word Secondhand itself. It had three hands for telling the time in hours minutes and seconds. But what all these have to do with the meaning of Secondhand, i.e. “Things previously used or owned”? Well, if we think about time it is apparent that time is not something new. It had been, and it would be in future also. People owned it and used it in the past and continue to use in present just like someone running in a race passes the baton and handover a stick to the next person to run. So it can be said that in Secondhand ownership and use of the object passes through different hands, which is not the case with buying or using something new thus establishing the role of hand in Secondhand.

In view of the above facts it can be safely said that I now have the Firsthand information about Firsthand as well as Secondhand, but the readers will get Secondhand information.


Tasneem Hameed


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