In an old tale about Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne this can be read:
Robin thought on Our Lady deere,
And soone leapt vp againe,
And thus he came with an awkwarde stroke;
Good Sir Guy hee has slayne.
In this text, the word awkwarde means "backhanded", as noted by this Tom Sawyer excerpt:
“Why, that ain’t anything. I can’t fall; that ain’t the way it is in the book. The book says, ‘Then with one back-handed stroke he slew poor Guy of Guisborne.’ You’re to turn around and let me hit you in the back.”
Looking at the etymology of awkwarde (currently awkward), the Etymonline web page says that awkward comes from awk 'back-handed'. Fine, but it also says that awk meant "turned the wrong way" in the 15th century. It comes
from Old Norse afugr "turned backwards, wrong, contrary"
OK, so in Old Norse it did mean "turned backwards" but it seems that in English it implied a "wrong" side instead of just a "back" side.
So I would like to know:
- Was the back of the hand considered the "wrong" side of the hand by the 15th century? Or is it that the word "wrong" may mean just "back"? Or may it imply that the back of the hand is the "wrong" (in the sense of "clumsy") side of the hand (not the side you use to handle tools or weapons)?
- In which period did the word awkwarde mean "backhanded"? When did the word lose that meaning and came to mean just "not smooth or graceful" or "uncomfortable or abnormal"?