Just recently, I read this statement: “Estimates of the number of sinistrals in the population at large are difficult to arrive at, due to the unfounded antipathy of the righthanded majority towards lefthandedness throughout history.”
Why is this so? There are a number of indications that it stems from misogyny through the historical association of the left side of the body with femaleness (sorry, ladies). Eastern statues of deities that are half-female and half-male always show the left side as female, and this may explain the spurious story of the Amazons, warrior women who removed their right breast the better to pull a bow. To late era historians, these statues suggested this myth, based solely on the fact that a statue half-male and half-female would have as its most glaring characteristic a missing right breast.
Other correspondences surface in the study of medieval coats of arms, where a bar slanting to the left signified “bastardy” – someone who reckoned their lineage through their mother. This bar was also called a bar sinister.
The word “sinister” is almost verbatim the Latin word for left-handed. The Latin word for right-handed is dexter. Through religious antipathy to the left hand, the modern meanings of these words as “evil” and “able” became more common. This has the amusing result of illuminating the meaning of the word ambidextrous – “right handed on both sides.” Even other languages suffered from this – the word left is from an Old Saxon wordlyft, meaning worthless. In French, left is gauche, also meaning clumsy.
Many people in earlier times (thankfully no longer) often tried to “cure” left-handedness in children by forcing them to write right-handed, a practice which certainly did render the majority of lefthanders “gauche,” or clumsy! This is a disastrous practice, one that can induce dyslexia and stuttering in the child who is unlucky enough to endure it, not to mention terrible frustration and hatred of school and schoolwork.
Meanwhile, Dr. Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia, after surveying 1,896 college students, found that ten per cent of lefties reported suffering injuries while driving compared with 6 per cent of righties. The rub, the psychologist theorizes, is that power tools such as drills, band saws and lathes often require lefties to make do with their less dexterous hand or to work in an uncomfortable or hazardous position.
But one wonders: Why do certain people persist in using the left hand instead of the right hand? No one seems to know, and some researchers claim that left-handedness is inherited, like hair or eye color. But genetic experts say this is not true, and instead claim that one part of the brain becomes dominant, thereby governing whether the person is right-handed or left-handed.
As Dr. Lawrence O’Kelley, of the University of Illinois, explains: “The phenomenon is a manifestation of the dominance of one of the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain over the other, the left hemisphere, in the right side, and the right hemisphere, in the left, since the nerves controlling the two sides cross at lower brain levels. Dominance is hereditarily determined but does not preclude a shifting of preference by training.”
By the way, when you confront a question or problem and are deep in thought, do you tend to look left or right? If left, you probably show more writing skill, a more vivid imagination and a greater tendency to become an alcoholic (if you’re a male) than a right-turner, according to behavioral studies. If you glance right, on the other hand, it’s likely you’re better at math and prefer cooler colors. Right-movers are more prone to migraines while left-movers are more prone to asthma.
Now, allow me to enumerate other southpaws whom I failed to mention in my earlier column. Among the American presidents, I forgot to include Ronald Reagan and Herbert Hoover. Other left-handed politicians from the US include: Bill Bradley, Robert S. McNamara, Oliver North, H. Ross Perot, Nelson Rockefeller, William Perry, Hugh Scott, Henry Wallace, and Bob Dole (who switched to left due to injury).
From the past, we have these famous southpaws: French heroine Joan of Arc, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, King Louis XVI of France, and King George II of England. Prince Charles, Prince William, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother of England are also southpaws.
The following authors/novelists are left-handed: James Baldwin, Bet Bowen, Peter Benchley, Jean Genet, Marshall McLuhan, Dr. Diane Paul, Helen Hooven Santmyer, Viktoria Stefanov, H.G. Wells, and Jessamyn West.
Ever wonder who are left-handed musicians? There’s plenty of them; just to name a few: Natale Cole, Kurt Cobain, Phil Collins, Billy Corgan, Dick Dale, Don and Phil Everly, Glenn Frey (of the Eagles), Eric Gales, Errol Garner, Crysal Gayle, Jimi Hendrix, Isaac Hayes, Melissa Manchester, George Michael, Cole Porter, Lou Rawls, Paul Simon, Seal, Rudy Valle, and Paul Williams.
There are hundreds of left-handed actors from Hollywood. To give you an idea, here’s a handful of them: Dan Aykroyd, Tim Allen, Matthew Broderick, Bruce Boxleitner, Carol Burnett, Keith Carradine, James Cromwell, Tom Cruise, Bruce Davison, Matt Dillon, Robert De Niro, Richard Dreyfuss, Peter Fonda, Mark Hamill, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, George Kennedy, Nicole Kidman, Lisa Kudrow, Shirley MacLaine, Marsha Mason, Andrew McCarthy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Ryan O’Neal, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Redford, Keanu Reeves, Julia Roberts, Mickey Rourke, Christian Slater, Emma Thompson, Bruce Willis, and Oprah Winfrey. Sounds like an all-star cast.
Many athletes – from soccer to basketball – are also left-handed. To name a few: Jans van Breukelen, Pelé, Diego Armando Maradona, Romario, Hugo Sanchez, Alan Border, Denis Compton, Gary Sobers, Greg Louganis, Mark Spitz, Bruce Jenner, Dorothy Hamill, Bob Charles, Russ Chochran, Connie Decker, Tom Barrasso, Bill Allen, Mike Aulby, Steve Mizerak, Jr., Peter Rasmussen, Oscar de la Hoya, Freddie Miller, Terry Labonte, Bobby Douglass, David Humm, Gayle Sayers, Nate Archibald, Larry Bird, Calbert Cheaney, Dave Cowens, Adrian Dantley, Mark Eaton, Nick van Exel, Gail Goodrch, Dick Motta, Chris Mullen, Willis Reed, Bill Russell, Bill Walton, Manuel Zulueta, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Monica Seles, Guillermo Vilas, and Lou Whitaker.
Here are more famous southpaws: astronaut Edwin Buzz Aldrin, surgeon Mark Silver, surgeon, journalist Dave Barry, lawyer John F. Kennedy Jr., sports broadcaster Vin Scully, psychokinetic performer Uri Geller, exercise guru Richard Simmons, and cartoonist Bill Mauldin,
Did I left out someone?