In the past, there has been something of a stigma attached to being left handed. “Southpaws” make up nearly 10% of the population, and there are more left handed males than females. Other unflattering words have also been used to describe these people, including the Australianism “mollydooker” which literally means “womanhanded”. The word “sinister” is the Latin word for left, while dexterity, implying a high level of manual skills and ability, comes from the Latin word for right.
Since biblical times the left hand has been reserved for the damned. It has been suggested that the bias against the left-hander may have its origin in early civilisations when the left hand was used for toilet purposes and the right for more hygienic activities.
The lefties in our society should not feel apologetic for their “preferred laterality”, to use the correct medical term for left-handedness. There is an impressive list of left-handed leaders, artists and sports people including Queen Victoria, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Michelangelo, Paul McCartney, Judy Garland, Picasso, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.
There is good evidence that left handedness is more common in persons with reading disabilities, stuttering and poor coordination. American ex-president Ford was noted for his clumsiness both on and off the golf course. Stuttering may be precipitated if a naturally left-handed child is forced to use the right hand, but of course many people in the past have made this transition without problems developing.
Extraordinarily, left handed women have twice the risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who are right handed.