Happy International Left-Handers’ Day!


That’s left handed rather than being a Trotskyite…

I have heard the number of left handed people is increasing – at present it is around 10% of the population. Probably because people now want to mate with us. Apparently before nobody wanted to marry left-handed people because they were sinister (Latin word for left). In Greek the word for left handed is skaios which means awkward. In Italian, the word is mancino which means crooked, and in French the word is gauche, which means clumsy. Many religions and customs regard the left side as being bad luck. For example

  • Evil spirits lurk over the left shoulder – throw salt over this shoulder to ward them off.
  •  Joan of Arc (burned at the stake in 1431 for being a heretic and a witch) was not necessarily left-handed, she may have been depicted in this way to make her seem evil.
  • Getting out of bed with the left foot first means that you will have a bad day and be bad tempered . i.e. getting out of bed the wrong side.
  • A ringing in the right ear means that someone is praising you. In the left ear it means that someone is cursing or maligning you.
  • An itchy right palm means that you will receive money. An itchy left palm means you will have to give money.
  • If you hear the sound of a cuckoo from the right it will be a lucky year. If the sound comes from the left it will be unlucky.
  • The Meru people of Kenya believed that the left-hand of their holy man has such evil power that he had to keep it hidden for the safety of others.
  • If your right eye twitches you will see a friend, if it’s your left eye that twitches you’ll see an enemy.
  • When dressmaking it’s believed to be bad luck to sew the left-hand sleeve onto a garment before the right sleeve.
  • When leaving to go on a journey, if your right foot itches you’re bound to have a good journey. If your left foot itches it will end in sorrow.
  • Christianity is strongly based towards the right hand. It is the right had that gives the blessing and make the sign of the cross.
  • On one count, the bible contains over 100 favourable reference to the right-hand and 25 unfavourable references to the left-hand.
  • The situation is much the same in Judaism and Islam. In Islam, the left hand and everything associated with it is seen as unclean. This stems from the Middle Eastern custom of using the left-hand and water instead of toilet paper and, more recently, of using the left handed to hold toilet paper for the same function.  This is the origin of the term “cack-handed”
  • We talk about ‘having two left feet’

Anyhoo, when I grew up it wasn’t so much fun being a leftie. At school I was forced to write, play sport and do things like sewing and cutting paper with my right hand. I can do it but I totally suck at it because I am actually left handed so my right hand didn’t function well at all. But my left hand is, as a result, untrained so now I am terrible at doing certain things with either hand.

I battle to peel vegetables or open tins with standard tin openers. I find it difficult to pour from anything which has the spout facing the ‘wrong’ way, I used to battle to write in a right handed cheque book, the standard lecture desks when I was at university had the writing table on the right. When I write with fountain pen or pencil my hand smudges it. I can’t cut bread very well and chip and pin code pads and card swipers are often designed for right handers.

I used to write three-hour exams on things like this.

Things are looking up though – we have our own day (International Left-Handers’ Day) on August 13th. Here is a nice site for things for left-handed people.

Many American Presidents have been left handed

  • James A. Garfield  (1881) 20th
  • Herbert Hoover  (1929-1933) 31st
  • Harry S. Truman  (1945-1953) 33rd
  • Gerald Ford  (1974-1977) 38th
  • Ronald Reagan  (1981 -1989) 40th (actually a right-handed writer)
  • George H.W. Bush  (1989-1993) 41st
  • Bill Clinton  (1993-2001) 42nd
  • Barack Obama (2009 – present) 44th

The 1996 election involved three left-handed candidates: Clinton, Perot, and Bob Dole. Additionally, both major-party candidates in the 2008 presidential election – Barack Obama and John McCain – were left-handed.

Here is a list of 100 famous left-handed people. There is a longer list here

Leonardo Da Vinci
Paul Klee
Michelangelo Buonaroti
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec
Peter Paul Rubens


Amitabh & Abhishek Bachchan
Drew Barrymore
Kim Basinger
Kenneth Branagh
Pierce Brosnan
Jim Carrey
Charlie Chaplin
Tom Cruise
Robert De Niro
Matt Dillon
Morgan Freeman
Judy Garland
Whoopi Goldberg
Angelina Jolie
Nicole Kidman
Val Kilmer
Lisa Kudrow
Marilyn Monroe
Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen
Sarah Jessica Parker
Brad Pitt
Keanu Reeves
Julia Roberts
Jennifer Saunders
Sylvester Stallone
Chewbacca the Wookie


Lewis Carroll
Bill Bryson
Germaine Greer
Berthold Schwartz
Janet Street Porter
Uhland Ludwig


Matt Groening
Bart Simpson


Harpo Marx


Jean-Paul Gaultier


James Cameron
Spike Lee


Benjamin Britten
David Bowie
Celine Dion
Kurt Cobain
Noel Gallagher
Bob Geldof
Jimi Hendrix
Annie Lennox
Sir Paul McCartney
Ricky Martin


Melinda Messenger
Magnus Magnusson
Ted Koppel
Paul Daniels
Tim Allen
Jeremy Beadle
Julian Clary
Charlie Dimmock
Loyd Grossman
Ross Kemp
Rik Mayal
Juliet Morris
Nicholas Parsons
Jonathan Ross
Shane Ritchie
Uri Geller
Shawn Michaels


Albert Einstein
Jack The Ripper
Napoleon Bonaparte
Julius Caesar
Neil Armstrong
Henry Ford
Marie Curie
Joan of Arc
Helen Keller


Queen Mother
Prince William


Winston Churchill
President George Bush


Wasim Akram
Sir Bobby Charlton
Diego Armando Maradona
Paula Radcliffe
Jimmy White
Mark Williams
John McEnroe
Martina Navratilova
Greg Rusedski
Babe Ruth
David Gower

I would be keen on hearing the experiences of other lefties out there.

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Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

3 thoughts

  1. When my son started school he was able to write either right or left handed. The teachers/school forced him to use his right hand only because he has learning disabilities and they believed that writing with either hand was increasing confusion for him. I truly did not agree with their belief but needed help for him for his disabilities I went along with it.

    1. Yes people do have different ideas. I was made to write with my right hand. Nowadays I do everything with my right hand except eat with a fork, and write.

  2. As a lefty, when I was taught to write, I used to get to the end of a line and write the next line from the right hand side in mirror writing! I’ve found it handy to be able to read upside down and backwards in later life. I am happy being a lefty now but I’ve always been classed as clumsy and I can’t remember how often I’ve cut myself using right handed knives!

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