Monday, November 26, 2012

About Lefties

No more than 10 % (and perhaps as little as 5%) of the world’s population is left-handed.
I’m one of them.

Most of us have terrible handwriting.

In my case, it’s partly because the school desks of my youth looked like this:

Notice where the arm-support is? Notice that it’s fixed?
When we, the left-handed kids, were developing our penmanship we had to twist around in our seats to get support on a corner of our desks.

And not only that.
Did you notice this thing in the upper right-hand corner?

It was a place into which an inkwell was inserted.

Back then, we were taught to write with nibbed pens.

And left-handers, as they wrote, invariably “blotted their copybooks” (ever wonder where that phrase came from?) as their hands passed over the wet ink unless they positioned their hand, as they wrote forward, so that the heel passed over the top of the line. (Yes, it is possible. All left-handers, back then, did it.)

But it came at a cost.
I got terrible grades in penmanship.

And my cursive handwriting, to this day, is so difficult to decipher, that I usually write notes to other people in block letters.

Leonardo da Vinci was a “lefty”.
And his famous “mirror writing” was a practical solution to a real problem.

By composing from right to left, he could allow his hand to precede what he was writing – just like a right-hander does naturally. And that hand never ran over wet ink.

I tried to talk my third-grade teacher into letting me do it.
But she wouldn’t go for it.

We left-handers are also challenged by scissors (generally contoured to be used in one’s right hand), checkbooks (that open on the left, leaving us no place to rest the heel of our hands when we’re writing a check) and all sorts of other stuff like manual pencil sharpeners and cheese grinders.

There are other disadvantages, too:

On the average, we live nine years less than right-handed people.
And we’re three times as likely to become alcoholics. (This, because we make more use of the right-brain than right-handers do, and the right-brain has a lower tolerance to alcohol.)

The trade-off for writers, painters and musicians is that creativity is a right-brain function.

Artists in our ranks, in addition to Leonardo, include Raphael, Michelangelo, Holbein, Dürer, Klee and Escher.

We also have a few world conquerors like Alexander the Great and Julius Cesar.

Some football (soccer) greats like Cruyff, Pelé and Maradona.

 And the all-time Olympic great Mark Spitz.

And, yeah, okay, I admit it, such famous criminals as John Dillinger, The Boston Strangler and Jack-the -Ripper.

How about some of you other lefties reading this contribute a comment and be counted?

Leighton – Monday


  1. In US elections since 1992, every single nominee for president has been left-handed...except George W. Bush.

  2. Did you know that there are two kinds of left-handers? There are those who write upside down like you, who have incomplete brain hemisphere dominance and are thus more creative. Then there are the 10% or so of left-handers who write right-side up like me who have truly reversed brains and normal hemisphere dominance, so we have average creativity like regular right-handers. Our brains are just flipped side-to-side.

  3. Both of my parents were left handed. My mom was forced to switch to right handed in school. As a result she writes with her right hand just as she does a lot of things. Yet her left hand exerts its old dominance now and then. Like when throwing. My dad's teachers tried to switch him, but he wouldn't break. His writing was atrocious though.

    As for me, I grew up at a time when small accommodations were attempting to be made (the one left handed desk in the classroom). For things like cutting or using a pencil sharpener, I learned to use my right. And what about ringed notebooks? i hated those. I learned to put a piece of paper under my hand as I write not to smear and I don't think my hand writing is all that bad. Oh, and I remember being so ecstatic when I found a company that sold exclusively left handed products. Loved their ringed notebooks that opened on the left! I think they are out of business now. :-(

    I still am surprised at how taken people are with my being left handed. I suppose I shouldn't be though.

  4. I'm a leftie who adapted to do some things right-handed because it was just easier. As above I'm also surprised when people still get excited about me being left-handed. You forget what a rarity we are. I've never seen that statistic about living 9 years less - wonder why that would be - perhaps because of the alcoholic connection?

  5. I'm a leftie who can actually write 'properly' i.e.I can handle a pen without making a mess and keep the pen above my writing line. One thing I read years ago was that Stalin was also left-handed!

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  7. Not sure if I qualify - I'm ambidextrous. That means that I do some things less badly with one hand than the other. There are also things that I can do equally badly with either hand.
    Back home (in what used to be Yugoslavia), like the rest of central Europe we start school at seven. Between ages of four and seven I taught myself to write with my left hand. Not sure if there was actually an official policy about left-handedness because that didn't happen to all my peers, but Mrs. Olga Jeremic, my primary school teacher, didn't hold with left-handedness. We were two to a desk. She placed me on the left-hand side, tied my left wrist to the leg of the desk and made me write with my right hand. The one and only reward was that I soon learned mirror writing that greatly impressed my schoolmates.
    Eventually, I switched to writing with my right hand but started using the typewriter just as soon as I could. As time went on my handwriting has been worse and worse. I thank providence for the inventors of keyboards on a daily basis.

  8. I am a frustrated leftie (i.e. was forced to become right-handed by my parents), but I still prefer to do certain things with my left hand. How annoying are the machines for putting your tickets in to enter the metro - they are all for right-handed people, so I end up doing some odd contortions to get through them in time! But my older son is left-handed, and I wonder if there is a genetic component to it.

  9. I just don't know what to make of myself.

    I throw left-handed (which banished me to playing first base or right field in baseball) and shoot left-eyed (that quickly taught me how to dodge right-favoring ejection ports), but most everything else I do with my right hand (though my handwriting is so bad I sometimes can't read my own words).

    I wonder where that puts me on the road to the Presidency?

  10. Many years ago, when I was in fifth grade in Crystal Lake, Illinois, Mr. Lundahl, the school principal, came into the classroom and saw me writing backhanded because the paper was tilted to the left, as the cursive handwriting handbooks prescribed. "Do it this way," he said, tilting my paper to the right. "That way you won't smudge your writing." I did as he said, and it worked, but my handwriting is still abysmal.

  11. I am mixed dominant: left eyed, right-handed and right-footed, as was my father. (This stuff runs in families.) My daughter is left-eyed, left-handed, and right-footed. Her identical twin sons were mono-chorionotic, shared one placenta, and are mirror twins. One is left-handed, the other right-handed. Her two daughters are both righties, but as is true of her whole family, awash in creativity. My handwriting is beautiful, but I went to Catholic School.

  12. I was born ambidextrous and trained to be right-handed and I have to admit, after years of watching lefties smear their ink and pencil lead as they push the writing implement across the page, I have no bone-deep regrets about it. It's interesting, by the way, how many U.S. presidents (including the current one) have been lefties -- it's way, way off the normal distribution curve.

  13. I'm a leftie whose grandfather was one of those lefties forced to learn to write right-handed. When I'd put a spoon in my left hand & my parents wanted to put it in my right, he told them to leave me alone.
    One of my two daughters is also left-handed. She's far more lefty than I am; I've adapted over the years: I iron right-handed, having learned when the cords weren't in the back of the iron; I'm comfortable with a can opener; I'm adept with the mouse on the right hand. She has a terrible time with all, but did manage to learn to use the number keys on the right side of the keyboard.

  14. Well, guys, I'd hoped to learn a few things from your comments -- and I certainly did. No, Beth, I had no idea that there are two kinds of left-handers. Joshua and Tim, thanks for the inputs about the US presidents. That's 'way off the curve. Literary Feline: a lefty, the daughter of two lefties? That's a first for me. Like Marina Sofia, it gets me to wondering if it isn't a genetic trait. And, yes! Those damned Metro machines! That's another annoying fact-of-life. Idreatherbeiniceland: I hadn't thought of that one. Maybe. There's no doubt that excessive consumption of the stuff kills. I've seen it happen with too many of my friends, left-handed or not. Mira, I wonder what Olga Jeremic did, and where she was, during WWII. And, yes, thank goodness for keyboards. Without them, at least half of you wouldn't be able to decypher what I'm writing now. For all you ambidextrous folks (and Jeff): have you thought that you might really have been the one or the other, were it not for a Miss Olga in your distant and forgotten youth? Annamaria, now there's a fruit salad if there ever was one. Congratulations on your superior penswomansship. Do you think it was because the nuns lambasted you with rulers. I guess they don't do that anymore, huh, but in my day... You could often tell a Catholic kid by the fact that he/she had a red hand. Jody, blessed be your grandfather! And, ya know what? I'm a really fast typist, but I STILL haven't learned to handle those number keys.