You are here:   Home/ Features

Int'l Left-Handers Day / by Eugene Clark, August 13, 2014 Adjust font size:


What do President Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, Joan of Arc, Alexander the Great, Jack the Ripper, Queen Victoria, Prince William, Henry Ford, Helen Keller, HG Wells, Martina Navratilova, Michelangelo, Ringo Star, Diego Maradona, and Babe Ruth have in common? Answer: they were all left-handers.

August 13 is International Left-Handers Day. It is estimated that about 10 percent of children are born left-handed. My right-handed parents beat the odds -- three of their children (my brothers, Bob and Dennis, and my sister, Nancy) were born left-handers.

This experience made me realize early on that the industrialized world was largely designed for right-handers. When it came to learning to write, I remember my left-handed siblings' frustration as well as that of my parents and teachers trying to work with them. Indeed, in countries like China, I understand it is particularly difficult to learn Chinese calligraphy with the left hand.

At the same time, being a 'lefty' has its advantages. Lefties playing tennis, or table-tennis, have an advantage, as do left-handed baseball players. Chen Qi and Li Yang for example, are famous Chinese table-tennis players. Neurological evidence, for example, suggests that lefties develop language skills across both sides of the brain and thus recover more quickly from stroke impacting speech. Lefties are better at using their right hand than right-handers are at using their left.

We don't know for sure what causes hand preference, which seems to be limited only to humans. Some argue that we tend to favor the hand most often held in the mouth when we are in the womb. One thing is for certain, for most of human history, being left-handed was generally not a positive thing. This is strongly suggested by a study of language which shows that the majority of references to left-handed are negative. Take for example, novelist Herman Melville's comment that: "To be hated cordially, is only a left-handed compliment." Throughout human history 'right' has been associated with being correct, strong and virtuous, while "left" is associated with incorrectness, weakness and being sinister.

1   2    

Bookmark and Share

Related News & Photos