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The Left-hander Syndrome

Excerpted from "The Left-hander Syndrome":

For some proof of these negative attitudes toward left-handers we need to go no further than our own language. The very word left in English, comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lyft which means "weak" or "broken". No less an authority than the venerable Oxford English Dictionary goes on to define left-handed as including the meanings "crippled", "defective", "awkward", "clumsy", "inapt", "characterized by underhanded dealings", "ambiguous", "doubtful", "questionable", "ill-omened", "inauspicious" and "illegitimate".

Some common phrases in the English language demonstrate our negative view of left-handedness. For instance, a left-handed compliment is actually an insult. A son from the left side of the bed is illegitimate. A left-handed marriage is no marriage at all, but refers to an unconsecrated or adulterous sexual liaison, such as in the phrase a "left-handed honeymoon with someone else's husband". Thus a left-handed wife, is actually a mistress. A left-handed diagnosis is wrong and left- handed wisdom is a collection of errors. To be about left-handed business is to be engaged in something unlawful or unsavoury. Sailors speak of ships that are left-handed, meaning that they are unlucky or "wrong" in some way. In Scotland there is even a saying used to describe a particularly unlucky person, which goes "He must have been baptized by a left-handed priest".

Any list of famous left-handers should include:

  Bill Clinton
George Bush
Ronald Regan
Lenny Bruce
Whoppie Goldberg
Robert Redford
Charlie Chaplin
Albert Einstein
Judy Garland
Goldie Hawn
Jimmie Hendrix
Jack the Ripper
Prince Charles
Robert DeNiro
Benjamin Franklin
Paul McCartney
Marilyn Monroe
Richard Pryor
Bruce Willis
Queen Victoria
Oprah Winfrey
David Letterman

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