Rosey Billington sent in this passage from a blog post:
I used to hate staying in my room. I used to hate sitting on my chair for hours, being unproductive and just dwindling my thumbs away. I had to constantly walk about the house, which I still do…But I also hated the fact that I had such a small room and nothing was in my room.
I thought maybe "dwindling my thumbs away" was intentional misuse of "twiddling my thumbs", to conjure up images of this woman idly wearing her thumbs down to stumps. As I read on, I realised it wasn't intentional, so I checked for ghits. Variations of "dwindling my thumbs" (varying the verb and/or pronoun) show up to around 800 ghits. Other examples of "dwindling my thumbs away" (or variations thereof) don't really occur, but apparently a certain Russian lady is passing up the chance to dwindle her thumbs down:
"You will forget about boredom with me! The palette of my interests looks like a rainbow sparkling with ideas, pursuits and aspirations. I am a self-made lady who enjoys daring challenges. That is why I like travelling and active sports: skiing, yachting, horse riding. I keep my mind opened to the world and am always ready to surf the wave of novelty and changes. Once I’ve completed the model career, I could just rest on the laurels and dwindle my thumbs down, but my everlasting longing for self-development and creation would never let me do so, thus I’ve taken up photography which is now one of the greatest passions of my life. Though I am extremely extravagant when it comes to friendship, warmth and care, I still keep a lot of love and tenderness in my heart for the man who will stand the closest of all to me. I am generous and sincere in my feelings and you’ll never feel forsaken even when I am going to be buzy."
Some other examples of thumb-dwindling seem to have been written by native speakers of English:
In a sluggish economy, travel can be expensive for one individual – not to mention the costs associated with families of three, four or more. The solution however, is not to spend all summer at home dwindling your thumbs – instead, get creative and search for cheap cruise deals.
These moderates (traitors in some vocabularies) believe in dwindling their thumbs and holding onto ideals of non-violence while Iraq is being invaded and torn apart again!
Dwindling my thumbs until then.I'm heading to NYC tomorrow until Tuesday for one last trip before its time to go back to school.
Forget tanking …. lets push for the playoff spot …. I think we could potentially end up at 5 or 6 if we stop tanking. That would give us some legit chance at getting a big free agent signing or use the TPE effectively. The team is always overlooked by others … so unless we get a good playoff standing we could be left dwindling our thumbs with all the extra cash.
Why are some online casinos making a killing while others are left dwindling their thumbs not knowing how to attract players. These casinos with declining customer-base year after year don’t seem to realize that gambling enthusiasts are a smart lot and the only way to retain them is to offer quality with a big “Q!”
It leads one to wonder what humans actually accomplished between ancient Greece and the latter half of the 18th century- were we just dwindling our thumbs?
One possibility, of course, is that some people, confused by sound similarity and sound symbolism, have just analyzed dwindle as meaning "twiddle" (in the relevant sense).
But given the examples of "dwindle away" or "dwindle down", there certainly do seem to be some people who have re-interpreted the (somewhat opaque) idiom "twiddle one's thumbs", meaning something like "to twirl or play with one's thumbs as a way of wasting time", as the (at least equally opaque) idiom "dwindle one's thumbs (down/away)", meaning something like "to wear out one's thumbs in idle play".