Barack Obama is intelligent, handsome and powerful; he is also, like six American Presidents before him, left handed. (Garfield, Hoover, Ford, Reagan, George H W Bush and Clinton.) Neither could you have escaped; John McCain is also left handed.) Join the club, for I am, just like Barack, handsome and intelligent, though less powerful; (Ask my wife!) I am also left handed.
Cack handed, buckfisted, spuddy handed, keck fisted; scrammy handed, corrie pawed, keggy handed or just plain squiffy, you get called them all. And its seldom complimentary. Left handers in medieval times were considered by some to be evil. The word sinister in English derives from the Latin for left. You would never say of a clumsy person, 'he's got two right feet.' It's always 'two left feet, the silly chap!' A put down is always 'a left handed compliment.' Likewise a promise you have no intention of keeping is always 'a left-handed oath.' The Bible doesn't help either. Evidently 'At the right hand there are pleasures for evermore.' And which side do the goats go before they are cursed and sent into everlasting fire. No prizes for guessing.
The causes of left handedness vary according to what you read. Some preach an ultrasound theory whilst others point to exposure to a 'higher rates of testosterone' connection. There is even present day research suggesting it is a deficiency problem with the gene LRRTMI involved.
As a schoolteacher I always listed the left handers in any class I taught down the side of my register. For many left handers fell behind due to difficulties in writing rather than for intellectual reasons. In any class of thirty I would average three left handers. In a class of supposedly low ability usually a higher percentage. There is no doubt in my mind some under achievement was due to left handed problems. (I don't wish to sound arrogant but this is based on many years of teaching and observation. We left handers know a little about the problems from experience, not theoretical study.) Work benches for instance were always geared for right handers with all vices in one position only. To be told by the right handed craft teacher it didn't matter was galling in the extreme. I could have punched him, south paw variety of course. Writing desks with a board were always placed to the right of the seat and were not interchangeable. (When I left school I was for a while 'a barbers boy'. All electrical plugs were to the right of the chair. Which meant trailing electrical cables to the left hand round the back of the customer, clumsy in the extreme. It is not true we used to find pieces of customers ears in the sweeping up but I admit it was not a job for me and I left, though perfectly amicably. Customers probably breathed a collective sigh of relief.}
The Department of Education admitted in 1996 it does not collect information on the proportion of left handers or the impact of it on children in school. That's over a million schoolchildren for goodness sake! I wonder if it knows how many children there are from one parent families; or disabled children; or how many black, yellow, brown or green children for that matter there are in the system. I'll bet they do. As recently as December 2008 a report by Bristol University suggested left handed children do less well than their right handed counterparts in National Curriculum Tests. I don't expect governments to do wonders, they never do but I expect them at least to be aware of the problem. It's not just about the awkwardness of using scissors, of finding knitting difficult, of changing the strings on a guitar. Its more than that and its more an awareness problem than a theoretical problem.
In 1902 the official left handed figure in Great Britain was put at 2%. Not surprising really when they tied your left hand behind your back in school to stop you using it! They say King George VI's stutter was caused by forcing him to write right handed. In 1954 the official figure for left handers in the USA was put at 5-8%. In Britain in 1974 10.4% was quoted. Now 15% is suggested. Make no mistake, we are coming to get you! We are taking the world over by stealth. (Note the American Presidents since the war.)
We keggies are artistic: Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso. We lead, you follow: Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Queen Victoria. We are more attractive, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, and certainly funnier: Charlie Chaplin and W C Fields. We are often more gifted and quicker thinking. There again, as a minority group we have no choice. But I admit we are not perfect. It is possible both Adolf Hitler and Jack the Ripper were left handed but in neither case is the proof conclusive. What is evidently researched is that the average lifespan of a left hander in the western world is sixty six whilst a right hander can expect to live to seventy five. (Some think it is to do with innate clumsiness.) So being right handed has its compensations after all!
In 1998 Burger King introduced a 'Left-Handed Whopper' especially designed for 32,000,000 Americans. (It was an advertising hoax, dear friends.) Evidently many asked for this new offering in Burger King restaurants. The mind boggles.
Finally, five things you may not know about left handers. Which fact is not true.
1 Some say Eve was made from Adam's left rib.
2 On a carousel the brass ring is always on the riders right side.
3 There are in fact more adult left handed bloggers than right handers.
4 On a standard keyboard, there are 1,447 English words that are typed solely with the left hand. Only 187 are typed with the right hand alone.
5 Of the five people who designed the Macintosh computer, four were left handed.
One final thought. According to Chinese tradition, the yin (right side) lives in harmony with the yang (left side); neither side dominates. Very wise, our Chinese friends.
(My wife has just noticed the blog and says, 'Well, the bit about me being left handed is correct!)