Are you left-handed and what does that mean for you and how has that played out in your life?
There are all sorts of stories around why some of us are left-handed – and I’ve found I’ve worked with a lot of people who are left handed too!
It may be that many creatives are left handed which means they are often right-brained associated more with creativity. I once worked in a tv gallery where everyone in a row was left-handed – seven of us. That was quite a coincidence, because in fact only around 10% of the world’s population are left handers.
We often struggle with things like:
- Writing; because your left hand smudges the work you have just written, and it is hard to write in a straight line. So often left-handers will have a very awkward yet recognisable writing style. I don’t as I’ve just put up with smudging the ink and being unable to write in a straight line (most of my notes books today have lines for that reason!).
- Scissors; because they are made for right-handed people.
- Tin openers: the same as scissors!
My maternal grandmother Phylis (known as Phylly) was left-handed, although it was beaten out of her at school, which was normal for that time, so she ended up being able to write with both hands. It seems cruel to us now however my Granny had her left hand tied behind her at school to force her to write with her right hand. And here’s why:
In past times to be left handed was thought to be ‘of the devil’. The Bible talks of how on the day of judgment, God will divide his sheep from the goats. The sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left, and they will be cursed into the everlasting fire. Hence in past centuries the need to beat left handedness out of people, was because they were seen as being evil or possessed.
The fact that left-handedness is seen as being unlucky or even malicious is often reflected in the language we use.
French – ‘gauche’ can mean both left or clumsy. In English, ‘right’ also means ‘to be right’.
My dad always referred to me as cack-handed! He would especially say this when I tried to do any kind of knitting. I actually like knitting however could never knit anything to size, everything I knitted, even if I followed the pattern, always turned out to be massive. I often wondered if this had anything to do with being left handed.
Now, I’m not the only ‘leftie’ in my household though, one of my daughters is also left-handed. I’ve never told her she’s ‘cack’ handed and she also doesn’t have the awkward writing ‘pose’ of many who are lefties.
Why are people left handed?
For the first time, scientists have found that left-handedness has a genetic component.
It is a kind of mutation that sends instructions to the brain. The instruction seems to be heavily involved in parts of the brain particularly involved in language. The University of Oxford who have done the research say that left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.
Some of their studies have also revealed that genetics inherited from parents may also have a role to play. (If this is so, my case it could have skipped a generation from my grandmother as both of my parents were right-handed).
They even found that the same mutation is in snails, and some molluscs have an anticlockwise (lefty) shell. This means they can’t have sex with ‘righties’ because their genitals are in the wrong place – so they have to search for other ‘lefties’! A good job us humans aren’t like that!
So science has shown that being left-handed has absolutely nothing to do with luck or the devil but that it is driven in part by genetic variants. However I suspect we knew that any way.
I find it interesting there is the link with verbal skills, because those of you who know me are aware of how much I love to speak, interview and have conversations with people. It just reinforces the fact that I am already proud to be left-handed.
Also, knowing my love of reading, here are seven famous writers who are also left-handed:
- Hans Christian Andersen
- Lewis Carroll
- H G Wells
- Frank Kafka
- Germaine Greer
- Bill Bryson
- Matt Groening & his cartoon character Bart Simpson