Land of the Lefty


I was copying my lesson quietly, in one of those sewn-together marble composition books that never seemed to stay flat, trying not to smear the lead pencil dust along the paper as my left hand progressed across the page.  If I were writing Hebrew, I’d be golden, but this was a 5th grade Catholic school class in Philadelphia.  I was stuck with writing from left to right, and trying to be as neat as I could.

Then I heard it; the swish of a long robe, and the clicking of rosary beads.  If Sister John Baptist really wanted to sneak up on her students, she needed to muffle that rosary more effectively.  Probably why ninjas don’t carry rosaries.  While I’ve known several nuns who were scary-ninja-quiet, the idea of this particular nun – short, squat, and elderly, with bottle-cap glasses that distorted the size of her eyes – as a ninja was beyond my imagination.

Win7 clipart

I knew she was looking over my shoulder, but I pretended to be concentrating on my work, waiting for her to get tired of watching the one lefty in class who wasn’t doing it right.  Since this was 1972 and not 1952 – and I’d already been writing with that hand for more than half my short life – there wasn’t anything she could do about it.

But she could do other things.

The left hand is the hand of the devil, she’d say.  You will hand in all of your work, and anything else you have to give me, with your right hand.

Oops, sorry.  Since my left hand doesn’t look any different than my right – you know, in a Batman-nemesis-Two-Face kind of way – I keep forgetting.

As you might imagine, I wasn’t a favorite of hers.  Fifth grade was an interesting experience.

While sometimes it’s not easy being left-handed in a right-handed world (check out the funny The 18 Worst Things For Left-Handed People), I actually love being a lefty.  It’s the only thing I have in common with Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Schweitzer, Madame Curie, Jimi Hendrix and Harpo Marx.

For a more complete list of famous lefties, click here.

Cool things about lefties:

  • Left-handers are the only people in their “right minds”:  the right hemisphere of the left-hander’s brain is the dominant side.  It’s the opposite for righties.
  • August 13th is Left-Handers’ Day (dang, I missed it).
  • Only 10% of the population is left-handed.  That percentage has remained steady throughout human history, scientists say.  Men are 1.23 times more likely than women to be lefties.
  • 25% of the Apollo astronauts were left-handed, which beats the general population by 250%.
  • 4 of the last 7 U.S. presidents have been left-handed: Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.  There is some debate about Ford’s left-handedness, however.
  • 4 of the 5 original Macintosh computer designers were left-handed.
  • The eyesight of lefties adjusts more quickly to seeing underwater.  Maybe that’s why a lot of competitive swimmers are lefties.
  • Some people think Joan of Arc was left-handed, but it’s more likely that she was depicted that way to make her seem more evil – she was burned at the stake as a heretic.
  • The terms “gauche” (from French) and “sinister” (from Latin) both mean “left” or “on the left.”
Want more info?


Are you a lefty?  Know someone who is?  Do you think the superstitions about left-handedness persist, or are we over all that?  I’d love to hear from you.

By the way…

Mark Hamill, via


Today is the birthday of another lefty, Mark Hamill.  May the cake be with you.

Until next time,




5 people like this post.

29 thoughts on “Land of the Lefty”

  1. shannon espositoshannon esposito

    Yeah, I’m a lefty. Actually me and my brother are both left handed but our parents are both right handed. I’ve read that it’s not actually hereditary, our brains actually get damaged before birth…lol. Explains alot, right?

    I hadn’t ever heard that the left hand was evil. That explains alot, too. *grin*

  2. Jenny HansenJenny Hansen

    Dang, I missed Left-Handed Day?!! I must have been too caught up with National Underwear Day, which is around the same time.

    Both my mother and brother are true lefties. There is some discussion about whether or not I was actually right handed and *learned* to be Lefty. The handwriting expert bore this theory out. Oh! Oh! I feel a post coming on…

    [You do that to me a lot.]

  3. Sheila SeabrookSheila Seabrook

    My husband is a lefty. Needless to say, when he installed the electrical switches in our house, he put in all the multiple switches backwards. Now when I go to turn on a light, if there are mutiple switches I have to try them all before I get the right one. 🙂

  4. Kassandra LambKassandra Lamb

    My mother was a leftie. She loved that “lefties are the only people in their right minds” line.

    Ironically, I will be teaching about handedness in about 45 minutes in my development class. The current belief is that it is genetically predisposed (right-handedness being the dominant trait) but influenced by prenatal factors. Scientists suspect it may be affected by how the fetus lays in the womb, i.e., which side is most often pressed against the mother’s spine and which side is free to move and get stronger (and brain pathways controlling that side get stronger as well). But I think this is still at the theory stage; hasn’t been proven yet.

    Another interesting fact, a fair number of twins, including identical twins, are opposite handed. So it can’t be completely genetic.

  5. Julie GloverJulie Glover

    My hubby is a lefty. However, he writes with his right hand because his elementary teachers “corrected” him. I’m still annoyed that they did that. I think his handwriting would be better if they had left him alone. (That nun sounds like a piece of work.) And by the way, I think you share creativity with Da Vinci.

  6. PatriciaPatricia

    I’m both handed so I guess that makes me crazy. I use my right hand to write, but I can write legibly with my left. I eat with my left hand. I throw a baseball with my right hand but a frisbee with my left. I brush my teeth with my left hand. Can’t explain it. Just weird.

    Here’s to the lefties and the bothies. I just made up a new word – bothies.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • PatriciaPatricia

      After thought, I bowl equally well right-handed as I do left, but I can’t shoot pool worth a damn.


  7. Renee Schuls-JacobsonRenee Schuls-Jacobson

    My brother is a lefty. He is a great tennis player and kicked butt at 1st base when he was little. I’m a righty, but I think lefties are fascinating. I’ve always felt awful when I see legt-handed students sitting at their desks, struggling to write. There are definitely not enough lefty desks in the world.

  8. Debra EveDebra Eve

    My husband’s a lefty bass player and there are great advantages. He just picked up a unplayed vintage 1976 Fender Precision Bass for a steal! Fun post, Kathy.

  9. Paul OwenPaul Owen

    Just thought I’d mention that the term “southpaw” originated in baseball jargon, because ballparks in the 19th century (or at least the one in Chicago) had home plate to the west of the pitcher’s mound so that the setting sun was not in the batter’s eyes (facing east). That meant that a west-facing pitcher’s left hand was on his south side. Hence “southpaw.”

    Any time I can steer your blog toward baseball is a good time. 🙂

  10. Gloria RichardGloria Richard


    I read the bit about The Swish of the Stalking Nun (Think that would sell as a book title? No?) with a ka-thump in my heart, certain your young self was about to get whacked on the hand with a ruler.

    I’m a Righty–which makes sense most days. What with “being in their right mind” and all.

    Did you ever tell the non-ruler-toting nun “the devil made me do it” when you made a punctuation error? No? Missed opportunity, but likely the reason you lived to write your stories.

  11. Natalie HartfordNatalie Hartford

    Love the lefties. I have a number of friends and family who are lefties and I love the cool traits you listed. It’s fun being part of the elite, now isn’t it?! Love it!
    I am right-handed and do just about everything right-handed. But…when I took boxing (for a number of years actually), I boxed left-handed. How’s that for weird? LOL!!!

  12. Clay MorganClay Morgan

    Yikes. It’s hard enough trying to write left-handed. I can’t imagine the added pressure of an angry nun!!

  13. Diana BeebeDiana Beebe

    I don’t have any lefties in my family. I sent my friend a link here, because her young daughter is a lefty, and she’s always looking for ways to help her learn.

  14. nancyelizabethlauzonnancyelizabethlauzon

    I have a friend who tells me horror stories about being schooled by nuns. Yikes! Scary stuff. Wishing you a belated Happy Left-Handedness Day =)

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