Recently I came across the expression "coarse hand" and couldn't find its meaning. For example,

— Can you read?
— No, only coarse hand.

What does this mean?


This is a term Twain used in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I was a good deal astonished, but when I got my breath I asked her what the paper was about, and she asked me if I had read it, and I said no, and she asked me if I could read writing, and I told her "no, only coarse-hand," and then she said the paper warn't anything but a book-mark to keep her place, and I might go and play now.

  • 1
    If you do not give the full citation, it will be impossible to say. Also, I am quite certain both coarse and hand are in every imaginable dictionary, so I do not see how you failed to find them. Lastly, why have you capitalized Coarse? Is it a proper noun, like the hand of Mr Coarse?
    – tchrist
    Dec 29, 2012 at 10:51
  • "Recently you came across one word..." Which word are you talking about? Coarse? or hand?
    – J.R.
    Dec 29, 2012 at 11:06
  • @J.R.- Coarse hand completely. How can I address this 2 word? Dec 29, 2012 at 11:08
  • @ColinFine - This I got from 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. Only this much is written. Dec 29, 2012 at 11:14
  • 2
    If it's two words, you'd call it a "phrase", not a "word". Also, there is much more in Huck Finn than that one sentence. Giving the source helped Colin unlock the mystery, but you could have quoted a longer excerpt to provide more context. In the future, I'd recommend putting that information into the question itself (as opposed to in a subsequent comment); I allude to why here, under the section entitled "One Last Tidbit of Advice".
    – J.R.
    Dec 29, 2012 at 11:32

3 Answers 3


The phrase was completely unknown to me, as I suspect it is to anybody who has not encountered it in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Googling for "coarse-hand" gives this as the first result: "Coarse hand means printing as opposed to cursive writing, in which the letters are connected."

This explanation seems to make sense, but I have not found it in any dictionary; so this was a reasonable question but only when you gave us the source.

  • I immediately thought of "rough hand" or "long hand" (and of course, "short hand"), but "coarse hand" didn't even cross my mind until Huck Finn was mentioned. Your bold font closing sentence is most appropriate! Dec 29, 2012 at 12:32
  • I have heard "a fine hand" in reference to handwriting but thought it just meant the letters were small and neat. Could one of these be backformed from the other? Dec 29, 2012 at 17:55

Perhaps OP should switch to reading the Barnes and Noble Classic Edition, which has an asterisk after the word "hand", and a footnote at the bottom of the page reading...

*Hand-printing in block letters, as opposed to cursive writing.


I think that in the mentiones context , "reading coarse-hand" could mean reading with difficulties and mistakes.

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