August 13th is “Left-Hander’s Day.” Launched in 1996, this yearly event celebrates left-handedness and raises awareness of the difficulties and frustrations left-handers experience every day in a world designed for right-handers
Today we celebrate the 10% (ish) of the population who use their left hand primarily. While socially acceptable now, there was a time when being left handed was forbidden. Here are a few left handed facts:
✍Between 10-12% of people on earth are “lefties.” Women are more likely to be right-handed than men by about 4 percentage points.
✍At various times in history, left-handedness has been seen as many things: a nasty habit, a mark of the devil, a sign of neurosis, rebellion, etc. It has also been seen as a trait indicating creativity and musical abilities.
✍Some scholars note that left-handers may be one of the last unorganized minorities in society because they have no collective power and no real sense of common identity. Additionally, left-handers are often discriminated against by social, educational, and religious institutions. Social customs and even language set the left-hander apart as “different” and even “bad.”
✍Many sources claim that left-handers may die as many as nine years earlier than right-handers.
✍The word left in English comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lyft, which means weak or broken. The Oxford English Dictionary defines left-handed as meaning crippled, defective, awkward, clumsy, inapt, characterized by underhanded dealings, ambiguous, doubtful, questionable, ill-omened, inauspicious, and illegitimate.
✍Phrases in English suggest a negative view of left-handedness. For example, a “left-handed complement” is actually an insult. A “left-handed marriage” is not a marriage but an adulterous sexual liaison, as in a “left-handed honeymoon with someone else’s husband.” A “left-handed wife” is actually a mistress.
✍Research has shown a link between trauma during gestation or during birth with an increased chance of being left-handed.
✍Tests conducted by St. Lawrence University in New York found that there were more left-handed people with IQs over 140 than right-handed people. Famous left-handed intellectuals include Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin.
✍Mothers who are over 40 at the time of a child’s birth are 128% more likely to have a left-handed baby than a woman in her 20s.
✍The German for “left-handed’ is linkisch, which means awkward, clumsy, and maladroit. In Italian, the word is mancino, which is derived from “crooked” or “maimed” (mancus) and is also used to mean deceitful or dishonest. In Russian, to be called a left-hander (levja) is a term of insult.c
✍In Latin, the word for left is sinister, related to the noun sinistrum. Ambisinister means “clumsy on both sides.”
In my circle of friends there are several southpaws. It hasn’t affected the dynamics of our friendships one bit. I often think about archaic or outdated thought patterns and wonder how the thoughts became commonplace. For instance, I always wonder why someone decided that covering one’s mouth when yawning would protect us all from evil spirits? Why not just tell people the truth? We don’t want to see that much of your mouth. But alas, where would our fun stories be if honesty prevailed?
I do enjoy some of the traditions of old, that are now understood to be completely made up. I enjoy them simply for their whimsy or entertainment. Being left handed came with a hefty price socially, and in some cultures it still does. But today, we celebrate the left handers, and recognize their importance in history and our everyday life.
On left handers day, aside from celebrating, I wonder if we could use this day to accept something about ourself that we have always felt wasn’t “normal”? Maybe it’s the way you speak, or walk. Maybe it’s a physical difference. Maybe it’s your humor, or seriousness. That thing you keep trying to change.
My hope is that we will be able to look at what makes us different as an interesting attribute rather than a disadvantage.
The world is full of people whose differences have made them who they are. If we embrace what makes us different rather than hide it in an effort to be seen as normal, we allow ourselves the opportunity to thrive. Our differences unite us, whether we acknowledge them or not. My strengths are showcased by my weaknesses. The things I want to ignore and hide usually end up helping me in another area of my life. In the same way, my gifts are strengthened by your gifts. Imagine I am a great musician, but have no instrument. Imagine you have instruments but don’t know how to play them. Separately we both long for something we don’t have. We merely exist. I don’t brag about my talents because no one can hear me play. You don’t talk about the instruments because no one understands why you have them. But what if we met? That’s when the music would happen. Using what we both had, we would be able to create greatness. The same applies to life. Using our talents together will achieve greatness. It will unlock places within us. It will free our souls.
Go out and showcase who you are. Be bold. Be proud of your individuality, and see who you attract to you. They may be the key to finding your music. And if you can…do it left handed!