Tuesday, 27 January 2009

And Now it's Lefties of the World Unite!

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!)


ADDY said...

As a right-hander I feel for you,though I know there is more attention paid to that sort of thing than previously (eg there are now left-handed scissors and tools available on the market). One thing we ALL do is drive on the left (well hopefully in this country we do!) but then again it probably stems from having to keep your right hand free for swashbuckling!! Though there is not much of that going on on the M1 these days!

Mean Mom said...

I'm left-handed, when writing and holding a spoon. I use scissors with my right hand. I don't remember anyone at school (in the Black Country) making anything of it.

Oddly enough, when I moved south at the age of 27, many people commented upon it. (I worked for the Civil Service and transferred from one office to another. It was in the days when we still used pens, so my left-handedness was noticeable.) I'm not sure what to make of that.

My aunt is 73 and was bullied by teachers, for being left-handed. She began to stutter, as a child and feels that it stemmed from the way some of her teachers treated her.

My writing wasn't very good with pen and ink, when I was at school, but I didn't realise that it was probably because of my left-handedness. I do get irritated in the bank when pens are always to the right. Otherwise, I don't care what people think about my left-handedness! I don't feel any different to them, as far as I know! (My middle son is also left-handed, as a matter of interest.)

Interesting post!

Ladybird World Mother said...

This is good! Utterly agree with statistics you give as teacher re left handers. Loved the rest... like reading this sort of thing. My son is left handed and has always had rubbish writing... all due to the way he was taught...
interesting stuff. Thanks!

VioletSky said...

Left handed people always notice when someone else is left handed and will generally comment on it!
Many more left handers are ambidextrous (out of necessity?) than are right handers, and it is annoying to always have to reach awkwardly for things that are attached on the right.

Having said that though, I cannot use the mouse in my left hand!!

Very thorough post, ken.

Nota Bene said...

I remember being told that my grandmother was born a left hooker, but was forced at school to use her right hand for everything...she became ambidextrous as a result

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Oh no! It's me again...but don't worry- I will be on my best behaviour sir!...On the theme of left-handedness and as an English teacher, I have found it fascinating over the years to see the different ways that left-handers have devised to deal with the simple problem that when you are left-handed your hand will hide what you have written unless you can discover some kind of unnatural digital contortion that allows you to see your words. Really, left-handers should be writing from right to left, not left to right.
There...I knew I could do it!

Gill - That British Woman said...

my brother is a left hander, and he was "encouraged" at school to use his right hand.........enough said!!!

Gill in Canada

Daphne said...

Lots of actors are left-handed - - well, the ones in our agency anyway! It does seem to go with quick wit, imagination and creativity if the left-handers I know are anything to go by. My mother was probably left-handed but trained to use her right hand as a child. Me, I'm really, REALLY right handed. When I play the piano I'm only conscious of reading the music for the left hand, and I've always found playing with my left hand difficult - the right hand seems to read the music and play with no real input from me. Yes, I'm a lousy pianist! Interesting post, thank you.

Anonymous said...


Stinking Billy said...

ken, your wife read your blog? What had you put in her tea? ;-)

Working Mum said...

Thanks for popping over to mine.

Interestingly, I have noticed over the years that I always have a greater proportion of 'lefties' in higher maths sets than lower ones. Some claim a link between left handedness and logical mthinking. Could be true?

cheshire wife said...

Thank you for dropping by my blog.

I am right handed. When I was 11 I broke my right arm and was expected to go to school and write with my left hand. This I managed to do fairly successfully within the space of a few days. When my right arm came out of plaster I had to start using my right hand again and I lost my ambidextrous skills, but it just shows what is possible.

fizzycat said...

I suspect I was supposed to be left handed.Why- having had ambidextrous abilities from childhood.Reversing knives and forks as a child.Often asked if I am left handed if I reach for something with my left hand ( it was probably nearer to the required object, no point in crossing arms). My mother is so as is one of my two sisters. I probably would write better if I wrote from childhood with my left hand.Intresting that some people still see it as an issue.

FANCY said...

You forgot to write that Obama have a intense light who is so colourful so it is breath taking, I might call it charisma, and that you cant say about the Bushman ;) I have read your post and you have done it so interesting, and I am a right handed blog writer and have always thought that I belong to the few people who is using both left and right of my brain,but, now I understand it is in the hands ;)I wonder who take my reptile brain then...*LOL*

This post is great and make me reflect and musing and give you one damn dizzy comment and that I'm sorry for...because the post is brilliant.

Kitty said...

I'm left handed too. 'Cack-handed Annie' my Dad always used to call me. I once heard an excellent piece on radio about it - there are, in fact, 'degrees' of left- (and indeed right-) handedness. Some lefties are much less able to use their right hands than others. I think I'm quite lucky, I can use right handed scissors, etc. Also, when playing sport at school, I always held the rounders bat in my right hand. I throw darts right-handed. But I play tennis left-handed. Yeah I know ... I'm weird.


Troy said...

I'm left-handed too. Not a lot of people know that, although a few more do now.

fizzycat said...

Thanks Ken for the tips on writing, will check out your posts.

CG said...

i always thought there was something rather glamourous and exotic about being left handed!My daughter is right handed but eats left handed!

Kit Courteney said...

Wow - you have some great posts. Old and new. Thanks for the comment you left. I have a feeling I've seen your name on Rosiero's and Robert's blogs, so that is presumably where you'd seen me.

I haven't really tried to get anything published before but I fully intend to approach agents and publishers once I've finished my editing.

Interested to know more about your short stories.

I will return.

sherry_yao said...

very interesting!! There are also some left-handers in my family. I was curious when they cutting using left hands. That's very difficult for me.

Carah Boden said...

Fab blog GOK - fascinating and funny in equal measure! You had me laughing out loud as usual. Friend of mine once came back from the barbers with a bit of his ear missing and blood gushing everywhere. Had you been hacking at him, I wonder?

For my sins, I am surrounded by cack-handers - both my mother and my husband. They're both as bloody-minded as each other. Is that a common trait with you keggies?

Funnily enough, because my mother, being a left-hander, wore her watch on her right wrist, I put my first ever watch on my right wrist (because that's what mother did). That makes me very stupid. I always had to take it off in exams because it got in the way when I was writing. But you know what, however hard I try, I CANNOT wear it on my left wrist now. It feels too strange.

Funny old world.

Anonymous said...

In my family (Chinese), gave something with left hand tend considered indecorous. Just a tradition maybe.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Sometimes I find being left handed funny, othertimes its annoying.

Men Mom
Sorry about your aunt but it was typical of the time. we're a LITTLE better now.

ladybird Mum
thanks for kind words. keep an eye on your son without them(school etc) realising.

i too use a mouse in my right. but I'm not very good with anything else!

Nota Bene
it would be marvellous to be truly ambidextrous.

Is it right some languages go from right to left? Arabic? It is in fact fairly natural to move the hand from the chest OUTWARDS.

i used to have an arrangement that I ate with the teachers at a church school. But they PREFERRED that I used the spoon in my right hand! This was only in the late sixties!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Thanks. Interesting concerning actors. Needs some researching re proportions!

Correct! Mind you, we don't know for sure!

You're not telling me your wife is denied axcess.. You old sexist,you.

Working mum
Thats interesting and definitely worthy of further study.

cheshire wife
I suppose all things are possible if you set your mind ti it. But most left handers are VERY VERY one sided only.

It's interesting at what age you are FINALLY determined as a left or right hander. I would love to know if people doing delicate jobs eg surgeons are equally represented.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Thanks for kind words. Have visited your blog and will be back.

Hurray, another !
Some things we do we are taught by older siblings without realising it at the time.

And another! (Wonder if Michael Caine is left handed?)

I've heard it called some things but never glamourrous!

Hi, welcome
Keep me informed, please and don't give up.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

travel with love
Welcome. Have visited your blog and will return. Good luck.

Her on thre Hill
I wonder now about left handers. You may well be right. I would fit for a start!

Its almost certainly because bad things are always associated with the left. Not just in Chinese traditions, I think.

icemaidensmellingthecoffee said...

I'm always fascinted by anything relating to left handedness and possible origins etc. I have four now adult children, two boys, two girls, three of whom are left-handed which must be more than the statistic average. Right handed myself as is their father and so far as we know, their grandparents. Thanks for your interesting blog. Just returning after a busy few months.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Hi pleased to meet you. I once read if both parents were left handed you had a fifty fifty chance yourself. But I honestly think they don't know and make it up as they go along.
visited your blog but had trouble trying to leave a comment/ No doubt its me!

Unknown said...

I'm ambidextrous - in that I can type with a finger from each hand. Does that make me a 'cuddy whifter'!?! (where does that name come from, I wonder!)

I'm being very 'appealing' on Bodge's Bulletin today..


icemaidensmellingthecoffee said...

Hi Ken
Thanks for visiting. Not sure why you couldn't leave a comment but thanks for being there anyway. There was an American guy I saw a documentary about back in the 80s who had done a lot of research which was very interesting. Sadly he died, his work unfinished but I'm sure others will take up the threads. Good idea re-visiting your old blogs. I have forgotten what I have written so may well have duplicated, changed opinions etc. etc. BFN

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Never heard that one before. Seemingly cuddy is slang for St Cuthbert. Possibly NE expression.

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