This is a picture of my all time folk hero, Woody Guthrie and his singing partner-Lefty Lou.
Much and all as I would like to talk about Woody, because I absolutely love him- I’m going to resist the temptation.
Today I want to consider what it means to be a Lefty Lou (or Marie-Lou, in my case) in a world of right on righties. And no, I’m not talking about the political spectrum here. I’m referring to the significant minority of people out there who, like me, are left-handed.
It is estimated that 10 % of the world’s population are left-handed. You will recognise us, as we often appear more awkward than everyone else. And why is that the case?
The reason we appear awkward is because the world is designed for and by right-handed people. Take a couple of small examples:
Knives and forks– Notoriously difficult. Our natural inclination is to secure food with the blade of the knife, and pull it apart with the fork. WRONG. We probably appear Neanderthal when we do that. Everyone knows you’re meant to use your knife to cut your food!
Pens, paper, and books– Another minefield. Our natural impulse is to write from the right to left side of the page. When flicking through the pages of a book, we start at the back and flick forward. A lot of lefties hold their pens upside down in crab like manner, and write like spiders.
Not only are our needs neglected on the design front, society has traditionally been very wary of lefties.
Lets look at origins of the word, ‘left’. It comes from the Anglo-Saxon, ‘lyft’, which means broken or weak. In french, the word for left is, ‘gauche.’ But, hey, isn’t that also a word for awkward?? And it gets worse. In Sanskrit, it means ‘wicked.’ Now, that’s plain harsh!
For thousands of years left-handedness was associated with the devil, depravity and ill intent. The Eskimo’s suspected left-handers of sorcery. Joan of Arc, burned as a witch in the fifteenth century, was depicted as left-handed to heighten her appearance of culpability! Even God, it seems, had a problem with lefties, given that sitting at his right-hand side was the place of honour.
With all this going on, it’s no wonder that we suffer more from migraines than our right- handed friends. But hang on, science says, we are also more likely to suffer from alcoholism and mental illness. Wow, the odds are really stacking up against here.
But it’s generally agreed that we’re a creative bunch, so there’s some solace in that. We also possess some advantages over righties when it comes to wielding a bayonet in battle! More solace, but given our potential for depravity, we probably wouldn’t be allowed to have a bayonet, so that sucks.
Interestingly, four out of the last seven presidents of the US have been left-handed. Statistically speaking, surely that’s impressive! We’ll quickly skip over the fact that both Osama Bin Laden and Jack the Ripper were reputed to be left handed as well.