I am a member of that exclusive group, making up 10-12% of the population, who are known as lefties, southpaws, or simply left-handers. I remember clearly that the nun who taught us in second grade tried several times to have me change my pencil from my left to my right hand. When she walked back up the aisle to her desk, I immediately placed the pencil in my left hand. To this day, I write exclusively with my left hand. Some friends from the past have related that the nuns had succeeded with them, causing them to fret about their present mental difficulties.
Another clear memory from my childhood is the day my older cousin was teaching me how to bat a ball. He unknowingly placed the bat in my hands in the right-handed position. Strangely, from that day on, I have always batted righty and also swing a golf club in the right-handed position. For this reason, some might term me as being ambidextrous, able to use either hand with efficiency. In my favorite sport, tennis, however, I have always held the racket in my left hand, which gives me an advantage over my opponent who is often fooled about where the ball will land.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Left- and Right-handed Scissors
Because scissors are made for righties, I have always had to handle a scissors with my right hand; I had no choice. Consequently, it feels perfectly normal to me. Marketing experts have now produced left-handed can openers, oven mitts, corkscrews, peelers, and pans and ladles for those who feel challenged by the norm.
Adjustments to be Made
When I was learning shorthand in college, my teacher, knowing my preference, pointed out that the line down the center of the shorthand notebook had the purpose of having the writer go just half-way across the page to shorten the time it would take to bring your hand back to the left again. We lefties were told to use the right half of the paper first, then go to the left. This way, our right hand would be in perfect position to flip to the next page when our left hand was writing on the last line at the lower left side, all in the interest of saving time, which is the purpose of shorthand.
College desks, particularly, are made for right-handed persons, making it awkward for a southpaw to stretch across his body to take notes.
We lefties, when lunching with a group of friends, must always navigate towards a corner seat on the left end of the table, lest we constantly bump elbows with our neighbor at any other point in the seating arrangement.
I have learned over the years that left-handedness is hereditary, but in most cases, the phenomenon will skip a generation. I do not know where my left-handedness came from. My parents and my sister are all right-handed, and I was never told whether any of my four grandparents were left-handed, as three of the four had passed away before I was born.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
I have always been proud to be a lefty, particularly since I became aware that other left-handers of my acquaintance are most often highly intelligent. They are also known to be score high on creativity. Many are drawn to careers in the arts, music, sports, and information technology fields. There is also evidence that left-handed people are better at divergent thinking, a method of idea generation that tends to explore a variety of possible solutions.
This biological peculiarity, however, has often been a source of stigma in some circles. The Latin word for left is sinister, and is often used in describing a left-handed person. In some cultures in the past, left took on the meaning of evil or unlucky. It was found that criminals were more often left-handed than honest men, and lunatics were more left-sided than either criminals or honest men. This belief has been more or less debunked in modern studies which claim high intelligence in left-handed persons as well as higher facility in certain capabilities.
In most people the left hemisphere of the brain is dominant for language. In the 19th century, it was suspected that the reverse would be true for left-handers; they would have right-hemisphere language dominance. On the contrary, a majority of left-handers also seem to have a left-hemispheric brain dominance for language abilities. A mere 30 percent of left-handed folks are either partial to the right hemisphere or have no dominant hemisphere at all. Researchers have found different brain wirings in righties vs. lefties, which needs further investigation.
Prominent Left-handed Persons
A surprisingly high percentage of recent U.S. presidents were left-handed: President Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Gerald Ford - as well as past presidents James Garfield and Harry Truman. There is a rumor that Ronald Regan was born a leftie, but stringent schoolteachers converted him to a righty when he was young.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Many sports superstars are lefties: Golf legend Phil Mickelson; tennis ace Rafael Nadal; and boxing champ Oscar de la Hoya. Left-handed athletes get a lot more opportunity to practice against right-handed opponents than vice versa, since there are so many more righties out there.
Other notable southpaws include: Plato, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, Noam Chomsky, and Albert Einstein.
August 13 is International Left-Hander’s Day, first launched in 1992. It is rewarding to note that our diversity has been acknowledged in such a grandiose manner.
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