August 13th, which is International Lefthanders Day, was first observed in 1976. As its name suggests, it is meant to promote awareness of the inconveniences facing lefthanders in a predominantly right-handed world. It is a day to celebrate their uniqueness and difference, who are about 10% of the world’s population. People who are left-handed use their right brain, which appears to help in geometry, and related subjects. There also appears to be a connection between left-handedness and intelligence. Therefore, it could be said that only lefthanders are in their ‘right’ mind!
Rampant cultural differences have imbued us with the notion that left equals bad. The English word “sinister”, for example, is derived from the Latin for “left-hand side”. In French, gauche means left and, of course, awkward, clumsy, unlucky, insincere, malicious and socially unrefined. Being out in left field is not good, and neither is having two left feet. Left-handedness has long been associated with Satanic influences and witchcraft. In the Bible, the blessed are always sitting at the right hand of God, never the left.
Then there are the practical biases, a regular source of inconvenience, frustration and, sometimes, peril to left-handers.
Try opening a tin can with a manual tin opener using your left hand – your arms will be crossed, and you’re likely to cut yourself on the lid. Hold a measuring cup with your left hand – the fractional amounts will be facing unhelpfully away from you. Think: circular saws, electric drills, chainsaws, surgical instruments, even firearms and holsters. All designed primarily for righties. And computer keyboards are made for righties – even though Bill Gates is left-handed!
Until very recently in Taiwan, left-handed people were strongly encouraged to switch to being right-handed (or at least, switch to writing with the right hand). It is more difficult to write legible Chinese characters with the left hand than it is to write Latin letters. Remember that “easy” and “difficult” depend on the person using those terms, so your writing may be neater. Because it is supposedly easier to write when moving your hand towards its side of the body, it is easier to write the Roman alphabet with your right hand than with your left. Conversely, Arabic and Hebrew, which go from right to left, would be easier to write with the left hand.
Again, “easier” and “harder” are subjective.
It is possible that sun worship relates to the association of the left with evil. People in the northern hemisphere, looking south, would see the sun rise on their left, move rightwards across the sky, and set on their right. In the southern hemisphere the opposite happens. Among cultures from the southern hemisphere, right-handedness is still dominant. No study on left-side connotations from those cultures has been done.
However, since most sun-worshipping cultures see the setting sun as it dying or vanishing, the right side would indicate the negative associations associated with a setting sun. This is the opposite trend from that.
It is interesting to list some of the famous, past and present, who are/were left-handed. Artists and innovators such as Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Henry Ford and Isaac Newton. Musicians such as Eminem, Paul Macartney, Paul Simon and Jimi Hendrix. Actors and entertainers, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Julia Roberts, Diane Keaton, Robert de Niro, Keanu Reeves, Robert Redford, Tom Cruise. Even the famous right-handed cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar, writes left-handed. And famous footballers Pele and Diego Maradona are both lefties.
A number of American Presidents have been or are left-handed, including Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush (senior), Bill Clinton and, now, Barrack Obama. British royalty has the left-handed gene, from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William.
Among military lefties are, Alexander the Great, Winston Churchill, Admiral Lord Nelson and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Mahatma Gandhi was left-handed too.
It is hoped that all lefthanders celebrate their uniqueness on August 13th and that right-handers will show them more understanding and respect!
Last, but not least, one of the most well known ‘left’ politicians, Fidel Castro, is left-handed and celebrates his birthday on August 13th!
Julian Francis has worked and typed left-handedly for many years in Bangladesh, and, since the Liberation War, has been encouraging left-handers in Bangladesh to assert their uniqueness in their very right-handed world.