Southpaws, Unite!

Ned Flanders and his Leftorium emporium. Image via

I used to think that fairytales were real. I thought that if I looked at other boys hard enough, they would have some sort of royal gentlemanliness in them and I’d try to get their attention. I also used to think that left-handed people were weird.

Not weird to the point of being associated with the Devil or brewing potions and poisons like the witches do in their bubbling black cauldrons. No. Just, weird. Like, how on earth do you get any homework done when the bottom of your hand smears and smudges everything you have just written in your exercise book?

Yeah, that sort of weird. I was young. I wouldn’t have understood. But for the majority who did, the issue of left-handedness goes a long way back in history. For the left-handed people of the world, life was never easy.

In Medieval Times

Writing with your left-hand was a justifiable reason in society’s eyes that you were possessed by the Devil. Massive stigmas were attached to them, to be singled out for almost any crime, including accusations of being unclean, practising witchcraft and the association with the Devil (society had believed that the Devil was a lefty).

There had been many accounts of how left-handed people were treated. More often than not, it would start as early as childhood. School pupils would have their left hands tied behind their backs and forced to write with their right hands until they learned to successfully use it.

The Doctor’s Prescription

Cesare Lombroso, an Italian doctor Cesare (1835–1909), who was often referred to as the father of modern criminology, had some strong views on left-handedness. According to Lombroso:

Being left-handed was a sign that a person had biologically regressed to a more primitive, savage mentality. [Source: History Extra]

He wrote in 1903 that:

[As] man advances in civilisation and culture, he shows an always greater right-sidedness as compared to… women and savage races, [who] even when they are not properly left-handed have certain gestures and movements which are a species of left-handedness. [Source: History Extra]

Thankfully, he was good enough to concede that not all left-handed people were wicked but maintained that left-handedness, united with many other traits, may contribute to form one of the worst characters among the human species.

From the Bible

Even the Bible has not spared us from their religious connotations on left- and right-handedness. More than 20 negative references have been made to left-handedness, mostly along the lines of one particular passage from Matthew:

Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Then he shall say also unto them on the left hand, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels.”

In the Eyes of Society

What makes society’s treatment to lefties even more unfair is that they are born that way. Scientists (they don’t have anything better to do than to instill unnecessary fear in us, do they?) have made speculation for years that perhaps there is a single gene that could control a specific handed preference in humans. Sadly, they are unable to define exactly which gene it is or where the gene might lie.

The world has since become more progressively accepting towards lefties, but there is still the occasional association with left-handedness. Constant battles between lefties and the everyday task still exist — writing on desks and in spiral-bound notebooks, using the scissors and liquid paper, and eating with cutlery. Some scientists even go as far as to say that the life expectancy for left-handed people might be lower compared to right-handed people! We don’t know if that’s true, though.

Don’t worry, the world isn’t coming to an end. I may not be a lefty, but my husband and my mother are lefties, and they’re neither criminals nor Devil-worshippers. I also have friends who are left-handed, but they’re pretty intelligent people.

There may only be 10 per cent of us who are left-handed, but current research have stated that lefties have increased intelligence, and three of the last four US presidents have been known to be lefties, too! Rejoice!

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