Being that August 13th is International Lefthanders Day, I found myself doing a little online research about my lefty tribe. There are some very interesting facts floating around in cyberspace. Here’s a fun little summary:
By the way and in case you were wondering, none of the current U.S. presidential candidates is a Southpaw. Bummer. And just for the record, I can roll my tongue just fine, thank you very much.
What’s interesting, yet a bit disturbing, is the fear of, and distain for, lefties that has persisted throughout the ages. The sad truth is that by most estimates, up through the 1700s, 40,000 or more people were executed under suspicion of practicing witchcraft; based primarily upon their religious beliefs, independent or rebellious behaviors, and some interesting physical characteristics, including left-handedness.
And check this out: in the English language, the term left is derived from the Anglo-Saxon lyft meaning to be weak or broken. However, this disdain is not limited to English. The German for “left-handed” is linkisch, which means awkward, clumsy, and maladroit. In Italian mancino is derived from crooked or maimed. In Russian, to be called a lefthander (levja) is a flat-out insult.
It’s a wonder that left-handedness hasn’t been wiped out – after all only 10% of the population is left-handed. However, scholars note it appears we’ve held steady at this percentage for about 30,000 years (Coren, Stanley. 1992. The Left-Hander Syndrome: The Causes and Consequences of Left-Handedness. Detroit, MI: Free Press). Despite the persecution, the fear (left-handedness having once been considered the mark of the devil), and a propensity to be accident prone, we’ve survived. There are a few theories as to why this is true:
It’s genetic. One premise is that the gene LRRTM1 is a strong contributing factor for left-handedness. Scientists discovered the gene during a study of dyslexic children; it is believed to be inherited from the father. At the most, this seems to account for 25% of all lefties. In my family, the only other leftie I’ve ever been able to identify is my Uncle Tommy, on my mama’s side; so go figure.
It’s the environment. There might be conditions during pregnancy that contribute to developing into a lefthander. Here’s my favorite: lefthanders were originally in the womb with a twin that did not survive, or a “Vanishing Twin.” Two of me? I doubt my mother would have survived two teenage Kimbas.
It’s a choice. For whatever reason, some infants may just chose to be lefties. Are we more rebellious? Are we stubborn? Do we choose to be left-handed because we are more creative? I find this one particularly funny because I can tell you: I was born a leftie. I’ve never been able to do anything right-handed. For me it would be like trying to choose my eye color, my height, or my shoe size.
The fear of left-handedness or things on the left side even has its own specific phobia: sinistrophobia. I ask you, in this day and age, how silly is this? I mean, is there anything out there more ridiculous than a fear of lefties?
Hmmm. Cough, cough…
If I’m being honest up here in the middle-aged cheap seats – and we are, if nothing else, truthful up here – I’ll share that I happen to suffer from a phobia that has haunted me since my youth. I’m afflicted by sanguivoriphobia. You don’t know what this is? Well, it’s the fear of vampires. Yep, ever since my childhood sidekick Jojo convinced me that our neighbor across the street, Mr. Anderson, was a vampire, I’ve been traumatized by the creatures of the night. How afraid you might ask? No Twilight, I veto many of the Anne Rice novels, and here’s the kicker: the only George Clooney movie I’ve never seen is Dusk Til Dawn. A phobia that can keep me away from George; THAT my friends, is some powerful mojo.
Therefore, before I get all high and mighty about the absurdity of sinistrophobia, I’ll check my hypocrite card at the door and offer this: if you fear me for my left-leaning proclivities, and I have many (*wink*), come on by and sit for a spell. I won’t bite, I’ll leave that to the vampires.
Do you suffer from a phobia? Share your secrets in the comments section; we’re all friends here.