Left-Handed Facts and Folklore

Why Are Some People Left-Handed?

By The Old Farmer's Almanac
Left-Handed Facts and Folklore

Here are some fun facts and folklore about being left-handed. Right on, left-handers!

Years ago, some teachers insisted that all students, including left-handers, learn to write with their right hand. Teachers thought that students would have an easier time if they were not “different” from right-handed writers. Some thought that using the left hand was just a bad habit. Some even slapped or punished left-handed kids who had trouble!

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Now we know that everyone should use whichever hand is most comfortable. Today, 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population is left-handed. It’s not surprising that lefties sometimes feel “left out.” Plenty of superstitutions and odd terms exist.

Left-Hander Superstitions and Terms

  • Many people believe that the devil is left-handed.
  • The Latin word for left, sinister, also means unlucky, evil, and suspicious.
  • The French word for left, gauche, also means clumsy.
  • A left-handed compliment is an insult.
  • A leftist favors changing the established government or order, usually to benefit the common man.
  • A left-handed baseball pitcher is called a southpaw. (There’s no such thing as a northpaw.)

Why are some people left-handed and others right-handed?

Scientists aren’t sure what causes left-handedness. Genetics plays a role, but it’s not the whole story. For example, identical twins have the same DNA, but it is common for one twin to be right-handed and the other to be left-handed.

Many left-handers have a symmetrical brain, meaning that the left and right portions of their brain are shaped alike. Right-handers often have an asymmetrical brain: The left cerebral hemisphere is often larger than the right cerebral hemisphere.

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No matter the shape of your brain, or the hand you favor, here’s what we have—um—left:

Left-Handed Facts and Trivia

The Left Test

There’s no sure way to measure “handedness.” One of the most widely-used tests is called the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory (developed in Edinburgh, Scotland in the 1970s). This test asks participants which hand they most often use for a series of activities, including writing, eating, drawing, throwing, cutting with scissors, brushing teeth, and unscrewing a lid.

Left-handed Burgers? Baloney!

A full-page ad in USA Today in 1998 claimed that Burger King had developed the “left-handed whopper.” The burger had the same fixings, but they were turned 180 degrees so that they wouldn’t drip out on left-handed customers. It was a joke! The ad ran on April 1 (April Fools’ Day).

Lefties Day

August 13 is International Left-Handers Day. The tradition was started by the Left-Handers Club, a group in the United Kingdom. Club members around the world give interviews and play left-handed games.

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Left-hander Heaven?

Lefties might want to travel to Left Hand, West Virgina, where there is a church, a school, and a post office. The village was so named because it sits on the left-hand fork of the Big Sandy River, not because of the way its citizens write.

Left-handed Reward

A few left-handers attending Juniata College in Pennsylvania have benefitted from a scholarship just for left-handers established in 1979 by Mary and Frederick Beckley, two left-handers who met when they attended tennis class together in 1919.

If you’re right-handed, try writing with your left. If you’re left-handed, try brushing your teeth with your right. You’re likely to find these activities surprisingly difficult.
So, tell us below if you are a lefty or righty and what you’ve observed about this phenomenon called handedness!
And find more fun facts in the new Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids! It’s a great gift for the young and young at heart!

Source: 

The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids, Volume 2

Reader Comments

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Left-handed rules

Both my sister and I are the only left-handed family members on both side of the family. Ironically, my sister and I have a beautiful handwriting (cursive) but my sister torque’s her hand to write above the line, whereas, I hold my pen/pencil below the line (like right-handed persons) that is what I find most unusual.

Proud to be a lefty!

I write, eat, and play guitar left-handed. Probably everything except sports. Sports are all right handed, but I broke my left arm horribly when I was 9. No one remembers if I changed after the injury. Funny thing: I bowl righty, but my feet land like a lefty. No one in my family at all, as far back as we know has ever been a lefty except me. I am so thankful to my mom. She fought teachers like a wildcat to make them leave me alone in my left handedness. Moms: Don't let teachers make your lefty hold their pencils and papers to make their letters slant to the right. It is what makes most lefties curl their hands all over the place to write. It makes their handwriting illegible.

Lefty all the way!

I'm a true lefty...write, brush teeth, throw, swing bat, bowl, drive, I'm all lefty! Of course, though, one of the most frustrating things is always having to use scissors and a can opener right handed! Not to mention coffee mugs; if you want to see the picture or saying, you have to pick it up with your right hand. But hey, don't sweat the small stuff!

Lefty

I’m a lefty but have learned to do things right handed..
Draw and write lefty play pool lefty but bat and throw righty
Shoot a handgun righty...Shoot a rifle lefty .. when young I was ambidextrous ...My father was a lefty but being born in 1902 was forced to write right handed .. when I write with my right hand our handwriting is identical..

Lefty's

I am right handed, and do many things left, such as play guitar, shoot pool, shoot a gun.
My daughter is right handed, as she can do a lot left handed as well, hit a ball both ways, shoot pool, play guitar, etc.. several more things. I never made her write right handed, I let her do what felt right. We just say we are ambidextrous.

Now, my granddaughter was left handed/or is/ she used to write left handed, but since she started school in August she started writing right handed. (she wrote left handed in pre school last year) I'm pretty sure the teacher wasn't informed so now she's writing right handed. Also last summer she played tee ball and her dad bought her a right handed glove and taught her to bat right handed, but she tries to hold her bat and stand left handed, which i threw a fit about. The kid eats left handed, plays on the computer with the mouse left handed. She pretty much does everything left handed except write. I am pretty sure I will have my daughter teaching her how to bat left handed and buy her a lefty glove this coming year. What would you do??? I feel like people have pushed her to be right handed. BTW, she is also a red head, true ginger with blue eyes, freckles, etc.. and true gingers, statistically are left handed.

I use my left hand for most

I use my left hand for most actions except; scissors (they're designed for righties), throwing (balls, bowling) But, I've learned to use a computer mouse and keyboard as a rightie.

Left handed

Yes I am!!

Handedness development in utero @ 8-12wks gestation

Proud lefty here, but as we all assume genetics may play a role, accordingly to a new study published in February 2017, handedness is determined in the spinal cord before the completion of spinal/brain communication. They also hypothesize that maternal enzymes in utero may also play a key part in handedness. So, Mom may be in play as to which hand you will dominate with, but not in the linear way we've assumed. (Article published by eLife Sciences)

Lefty

I am left-handed! My mother was ambidextrous. My sisters and father were right handed. I think being left-handed is special!!

lefthanded

I am left handed but, although I write left, I cut with scissors right handed. Also I shoot pool left and shoot a rifle lefthanded. I bat a ball righthanded, and throw a ball righthanded. I iron clothes righthanded, crochet lefthanded. In Catholic school, the wonderful nuns, who I truly loved, tried to change me to righthanded, but they never got it done.

Left handed

I'm lefty and did you know that pens and pencils are designed for right handed? Hold the pen in your left and the lettering is backwards and upside down

Lefthandedness

I have noticed that most lefties are more ambidextrous. We have to be. We live in a right hander's world. It is more difficult, and often more expensive, to buy left handed scissors, baseball mitts, etc. Most tools that are specific for either left or right handers are hard for us lefties to find, and if we have to use a right handed tool we have to be more careful. There was a study done 25 or more years ago that found that lefties live an average of 9 years shorter than righties, mainly because factories, where many are employed, are built for right handers. So many of the early deaths were work related. I have noticed that there seems to be more left handers shopping in fabric stores, art supply stores, crafting stores (I used to work at a fabric store - probably 20% of the clientele was left handed - back when everyone wrote checks).

Lefties Rule

I am a 9 year parochial school left handed survivor. Nuns tried everything to make me "switch" hands, up to and including corporal punishment. But I survived. I eat, write, brush my teeth left handed. I can use left handed equipment, scissors and the like, but find that being left handed is only a plus to my creative mind. In "our right mind"?? could be...I like the idea that people think that we are....lol...

left handed

I am definitely left-handed and did suffer greatly in elementary school. I was called a witch, a heriteck and had my hands tied, the strap the dunce cap, rulers and pointers broken over me and other punishments. I will say this - it made me hate school.

Left hand

Yes I'm Left handed, i play golf right hand, I Bowl Left hand, Write left. and drive my car right hand. Weird. LOL

left / right

I too, was born left handed... but I cannot use a pair of left handed scissors to save my life ! I drive mostly with my right hand on the wheel. All my life I have sought the end of the table at family gatherings, only now my son joins me !

A little of both.

I eat, write and brush my teeth with my left but do everything else with my right. It is a right handed world so I suppose I just learned to do "interactive" things the way most people do them. All sports are right handed but I shoot a gun with both hands easily. I'm odd I guess.

Lefties on the family

I am left handed. I have 4 children all who are left handed. I even have a dog that is left handed. So fun at our house.

Mostly lefty

I do most things left handed, write, eat, throw a ball etc. I use right my right hand to use a scissors (because no left hand scissors when I was in school), bat a ball. My first grade teacher was wise and showed me how to turn my writing tablet to accommodate being left handed (loved her for that). But didn't we hate how we smudged the ink when writing, having the rings on a binder be in the way. I gave up trying to make check marks like everyone else. Now I just make them "backwards", who cares? I always tried to sit at the end of a table, when eating, to avoid knocking elbows with the right handed person next to me. So many inconveniences. I also have trouble with left and right and must stop and deliberately think which is right and which is left. I always felt a little different from others but also a little special.

Left handed

My entire life I’ve had to think about left hand right hand too,I’m so glad I’m not as alone as I thought

I'm a leftie (only with my handness)

I was very lucky to have a first grade teacher who was also left handed. So it was easier for me to follow her while learning to print. Over time, I do use my right hand, just to challenge myself. But I am most comfortable with my left. Do you know, the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body? And the right side of the brain controls the left? Therefore, us lefties are the ones in our right mind!

Lefty 4 Ever

Me and my boyfriend were both born left-handed.
And what also funny is we are both the same skin tone so people always mistake us for brother and sister.

Lefties

I had a half brother that was a leftie, my mom & dad made me change hands when I was small, or I would have been a leftie. I wouldn't have minded being a left handed person. Think it would have been fun to have been different, considering I never really popular anyway.

Left hand

I'm mostly left handed. Write, draw, eat, point, left handed. I shoot, sew, play tennis with right hand. Brush teeth, wash dishes and hammer with either. Get confused when told to turn right or left. Prefer to be told 'port' or 'starboard' which is easier to follow for some reason. No one else in the family is, or was, left handed. So, which side of my brain is bigger?

Left handed

I am left handed and so is my mother. All four of my children are right handed. I have been doing more things with my right hand and find it takes great concentration. Have to slow down and think about what it is I am trying to perform.

my mom was left handed, but

my mom was left handed, but forced to switch to right handed 'back in the day'. She and my dad, a righty, have 6 kids, 4 of whom are left handed. This includes a set of fraternal twins that are both left handed, my youngest sibling, and me the oldest. I guess it can be a dominant gene!

Left-handed (versus right-handed) ...

From birth (1960) to the age of three going on four, I did everything 'right-handed'. My sister ... one of two sisters, the one right above me agewise ... was a true 'southpaw'. She started school the year before I did. When she'd come home from kindergarten and we'd 'play' in the afternoon, I noticed that she was colouring with her left hand and not with her right hand like I was. I assumed that everyone at school coloured/wrote with their left hand and, given that I would be starting kindergarten the following year, I copied her. To this day, I do everything with my right hand ... except, of course, 'colouring' (writing)!

Left Handed

I am from a family of twn kids. Myself, 2 sisters, and my father were left handed. Both my boys started out left handed.When my youngest son started writing, his father and teachers told him left handed people were stupid. He writes with both hands. And my 5 yr.old grandson is left handed. I was always told that us left handed people were smarter then right handed people, because we think with both sides of our brain. My teacher always tried getting me to right with my right hand, I never did. My great accomplishment
Was when I took up Bowling, I stood where the right handed bowlers stood, and bowled left handed. They could never figure that one out. I always have to walk on the left side when I am walking with someone.

South Paws!

I learned to read and write at 3 and always used my left hand for everything. In Kindergarten (1951) my teacher tried to switch me with poor results. My mother told her to leave me alone. In first and second grade the damage was finished when they refused to listen to my mother. It's
been a disaster ever since, and I have trouble with "left" and "right" directions to this day because MY "right " hand is my left. At about age 13 I stopped using left and right hand interchangeably for writing, and began to write with my right hand. I still sometimes use my left for blackboards when teaching my nursing students. I can sew or cook or garden with either hand. Both my kids are South paws, and I threatened their teachers quite aggressively after the elementary school tried to switch their handedness several times. They had the sense to leave them well enough alone after that. Neither of my grown children has a problem being left handed.

A Leftie Through and Through!

When I entered the first grade, I was in Germany and did not speak the language. Otherwise they would have made me switch to writing with my right hand. I'm so glad that that did not happen! I feel special being left-handed. I'm quite clumsy with my right hand and do everything with my left hand. My friends don't understand what I mean when I say that most tea cups and coffee mugs, BIC lighters, pens etc. are all right handed. I. then show them that when you write with pens, the writing is upside down if from the left-handed perspective. You don't get the pleasure of seeing the cute design on most coffee mugs and T cups when using them left-handed. Also opening most doors requires a left-handed person to cross midline, or the center of their body to open the door. The good news is that crossing midline as a young child is adevelopmental milestone and crossing midline helps the young brain develop.
Lastly, I have found that some items such as potato peelers only have the right side sharpened so lefties Beware! If you're struggling try using your right hand to see if perhaps you have been short changed!

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