Humor, Memoirs.

La main gauche est maladroit

-saved from bizarro.com, Dan Piraro, Bizarro Comics

Click to view the full comic on the wonderful Bizarro.com. Attrib: Dan Piraro, Bizarro Comics, saved from bizarro.com.

I came across this provocative double-entendre comic from the great Bizarro Comics. As a left-hander, I laughed my head off.

As one of the tribus sinistra, I have experienced many of the typical disadvantages that befall a left-hander, like tools optimized for right-handers, and so on, which have mostly turned out to be minor annoyances.

When hand-writing was a premium, before the advent of personal computers, writing from left-to-right in English was a burden using an ink pen, as the left hand trailed across the page immediately on top of the fresh ink, smearing it.  The result was that a typical left-hander wrote more slowly and in a more cramped style than a typical right-hander.  (Unless they were as clever as my friend Ralph Wiser, who turned the paper clockwise 90 degrees when writing so as to avoid both the cramped style and the smeared ink.)

I have also experienced some of the advantages, often including a tactical one in sports:  For example, when playing in pick-up basketball games with strangers, my left-handedness was usually worth a couple of initial easy layups, because everyone first expected a right-handed attack.

Historically, as the cartoon suggests, left-handers had it much worse than in today’s world, being treated as “of the Devil” and all that that entailed in Christendom; it was little different in many other parts of the world.  Sinister is Latin for left, and among its’ many negative connotations is evil.

Even without the sometimes devilish connotations associated with left-handedness, lefties were almost universally marked as awkward, for the obvious reason that most people were right-handed, and their left hands were less coordinated than their right ones.  Many languages carry that bias; typical in Western Europe is the French adjective gauche, meaning left, but also meaning clumsy, and so on. Droit, meaning right, holds many other positive meanings like straight, correct, and legal.   Maladroit, meaning not right (so left), is a synonym for gauche and for clumsy.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment I experienced due to my left-handedness was as a six year old child while living in Germany.  My parents looked into enrolling me in a German grammar school, but decided against it because the nuns who ran the school insisted that if I attended they would forcefully switch me over to being right-handed.  This particular cultural bias and practice is still alive in parts of the world.

All in all, having not grown up in medieval times, for me the boon of left-handedness has outweighed the bane.


All Things Left-Handed: Matt Groening, who is a distant relative and fellow left-hander, invented the Leftorium in his classic animated TV show, The Simpson’s, which was owned and operated by the hapless Ned Flanders.

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