Right or left; right or wrong

Question 1: what is different about this pair of scissors?

left-handed scissors

What’s different about these scissors?

Question 2: what do the following people have in common? Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci; Napoleon Bonaparte; Bill Gates: Bobby Fischer: Bill Clinton and President Obama?


The scissors are specifically designed for left-handed use, and all the people listed are / were left-handed. In fact, da Vinci was totally ambidextrous, and could also do mirror-writing with either hand. There have been 8 left-handed US Presidents, including those named above.

Left-Handers’ Day

13th. August is International Left-Handers’ Day, and has been celebrated since 1976. The aim is to promote awareness of the inconveniences facing ‘lefties’ in a predominantly right-handed world.

Between 7-10% of the world’s population are estimated to be natural left-handers. Both my brother and I are (or were) thus inclined when youngsters.

Personal confessions

However, when I began school it was deemed improper, or downright wrong, to write with your left hand, and I was forced to learn to form my letters with my right. My brother, a few years younger, escaped this unnecessary torture, as educational and social attitudes loosened up a little in Wales.

So, while he now writes entirely left-handed, I cannot – I’m purely write-handed (excuse me for that!). But I still catch and throw a ball with my left hand; and kick a football with my left foot. In now-distant school playground  fights, I always led with my left fist (see ‘southpaw’, below), to the extent of once breaking my left wrist in such a bout of fisticuffs.

The bonus I now find, in practical terms, is that I can use all kinds of craft tools (hammers, screwdrivers, handsaws, knives, etc) with either hand – useful when I’m doing a tiring, repetitious job. I haven’t had the opportunity to try left-handed scissors, but am sure it would be no problem.

There’s still a downside to all this ‘sinister’ business, though. In the past, I have worked in the Middle East and India, where cultural norms still widely dictate that the left hand is ‘unclean’, and as such should be kept away from contact with food and drink.

I developed a simple ploy to avoid being caught out in such situations: at a table, I would always discreetly sit on my left hand. Even then, my instincts could still take over. Once, in Syria, at the end of a celebratory meal, the waiter came round with a container of toothpicks. Out shot my left hand! My interpreter leaned over and quietly whispered in my ear: “You should remember that, over here, we don’t use that hand.” Ouch!

Some facts, trivia and preconceptions about the left-hander
(including some dubious claims!)

The world is built for right-handers. Examples are everywhere:

  • In school, have you ever seen a left-handed desk?
  • Many left-handed items cost more than ‘standard’ items.
  • Novelty coffee mugs are made with the picture or text for a right-handed pick-up.
  • Standard scissors are for right-handers. Only a lefty would understand this.
  • The computer mouse you are using as you read this is designed for right-handers.
  • Right-handed people operate in the left side of the brain. Left-handed people use the right side.
  • Sinistrophobia is the fear of left-handedness or things on the left side.
  • While many people are left-handed, very few are 100% left-handed. For example, many left-handers play golf and bat right-handed. On the other hand, there is a high percentage of righties who are 100% right-handed.
  • Lefties are also called “southpaws”. The term was coined in baseball to describe a left-handed pitcher.
  • Tuesdays are lefties’ lucky day.
  • Up to 10% of the population is left-handed.
  • During the 1600’s, people thought left-handers were witches and warlocks.
  • Most left-handers draw figures facing to the right.
  • There is a high tendency in twins for one to be left-handed.
  • Stuttering and dyslexia occur more often in left-handers (particularly if they are forced to change their writing hand as a child).
  • Left-handers excel particularly in tennis, baseball, swimming and fencing.
  • Left-handers usually reach puberty 4 to 5 months after right-handers.
  • 4 of the 5 original designers of the Macintosh computer were left-handed.
  • 1 in 4 Apollo astronauts were left-handed – 250% more than the normal level.
  • It is believed that all polar bears are left-handed.
  • There is a rumour that octopuses have but one right hand. (Scientists are diligently studying this issue!)[1]

The derogatory power of language

Many languages have derogatory or offensive ways to describe lefties; some term that immediately spring to mind are ‘cack-handed’ – I leave you to decipher the full meaning, but it also implies clumsiness. A ‘left-handed compliment’ is actually the opposite, ‘having two left feet’, i.e., again being clumsy, and so on.

Source: Left-Handers’ Day official site

And Bulgaria?

Some instant research across the editorial desk reveals that the Bulgarian noun for ‘left hander’ is ‘levichar’ (Левичар). However, the jargon use of the term ‘levak’ (левак) is derogatory, again being applied to someone who’s a bit clumsy. My source also mentioned that her primary teachers heavily encouraged writing with the right hand.

Anyway, as the Lefthanders’ slogan puts it: “”Everyone is born right-handed. Only the greatest overcome it.” (unknown, left-handed author).


There’s an enjoyable personal article by Gary Nunn on the subject in today’s Independent.[3]

[1]: Holiday Insights

[2]: Left-Handers’ Day official site

[3]: The Independent


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One Response to “Right or left; right or wrong”

  1. tarasy kompozytowe Says:

    I completely agree with the idea. I just desire others will agree as well.

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