Great Friend Chuck Fatheree of Atlanta and his Clan Lamont recently reminded me that the Scots term for left-handedness is corrie fistit which literally means clumsy. Another term for left-handedness can also be heilan meaning “Highland” a proud appellation for most of us whose families emanated from the Highlands of Scotland. However, the term refers to the one-time, ill-advised and negative racist perception that Highlanders were awkward and backward. Must have come from the Sassenach… And, yes, we used to eat English babies and our dead…
The real reason why many perceive left handedness as the deviation from the norm is probably because - it is (10% v. 90%). With the world being overwhelmingly right-handed those who developed that sinister persuasion fell under a diabolical and superstitious scrutiny that continues to this day.
The cultural prejudice against left-handedness is pervasive in most societies around the world with the basic implication that right is correct and left is wrong. To this day in many societies and cultures left-handed mannerisms are still discouraged and even outlawed. To the latter part of the 20th century use of the left hand for writing was discouraged in English schools. There’s more.
The old Irish used to use the term ciotóg In the Gaelic language, pronounced 'kitt-ogue', and means “strange one.” Works for me…. Some Irish still use the term Kitter-fisted while the Norse use crooked-handed to describe left-handed folks.
When we hear the word sinister we usually conjure up images of the dark side – to include evil, malicious, harmful, ominous and even Satanic. To many, however, the word denotes (from the Latin) no more than a reference to those who are dominated by their left hand as opposed to the preferred alternative. My maternal grandfather, son and I are among those that constitute from seven to ten percent of Homo Sapiens that are left-handed. As I watched President Obama sign the stimulus package the other day I couldn’t help noticing and being reminded that he’s also a southpaw. By the way, John McCain is also left-handed. Do we find consolation that 60% of our presidents over the last thirty years are left-handed? For me there’s something comfortable about being left-handed though that hasn’t been the case throughout history.
There are many blogs and sites out there that are exploring Lefthandedness, the history of gauche discrimination and some of the more current unacceptable attitudes and practices about this dexterity (oops!). We shall soon overcome. We will recommend some to you later and hope they encourage your further inquiry.
Whether these aforementioned sinister misconceptions came from a less than intelligent, primal eureka that recognized behavioral and mechanical differences to the current cultural stereotypes or the habits of expanding Islamic societies where the left hand is always used in the toilet (use your imagination) and considered evil and unclean, doesn’t really matter. The fact is, they exist. As a side bar we of Might of Right do sincerely recommend that when in the company of Muslim hosts that you lefties eat with your right hand. It’s easy. Heck, if 90% have the hang of it…
On a personal note, throughout my early life my left-handedness always put me at a disadvantage. Think about it, most everything in our world to include knives, scissors, can openers, pens, shears, trowels and other basic implements are all “right-handed”. I not so fondly remember at St. Dunstan’s School and later at Moses Brown in Providence, Rhode Island having to endure incredibly awkward right-handed desks until they finally got me desks sinister. Musical instruments are mostly right-handed. Firearms to include pistols and rifles are all manufactured for the righty user. That may be a sign that we are the peacemakers of the world though I note that dictators like Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Tiberius, Charlemagne, Alexander the Great and thugs like Castro were/are all left-handed. Thank God for Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf two left-handers who fought for peace.
As a youngster I was active as a Junior Member of the National Rifle Association. My left-handed Grandfather, Alden Llewellyn Littlefield, was the Range Master (along with many more responsibilities) at the Masassoit Gun Club in Riverside, Rhode Island which was named for the famous Wampanoag Chief, Massasoit who helped the inept and ultimately discriminating Plymouth Pilgrims survive their first winter in the New World. Granddaddy Littlefield taught me how to shoot and even had a special left-handed 22 calibre rifle (small) available for me. My goal was to someday be able to use his left-handed competition rifles that he used to great success in competitions all over the northeast. He was a crack shot, a true Champion and heroic figure for me as I grew up. I still have some of his vintage left-handed golf clubs which are sacred icons in our Family.
While I no longer shoot competitively I have embraced some of Granddaddy’s lessons when I performed Grant’s New Highland Military Discipline of 1757 with my short land pattern .75 calibre flintlock Brown Bess musket that sure wasn’t designed for the southpaw (no mass produced weapons were). Many a left-handed 78th Fraser Highlander has walked away from our musketry firing range with burns and black powder residue on his face from the right-handed lock. I am glad that today I own an Ithaca shotgun with a bottom load and eject design that works well for this southpaw. No, I’ve never fired the weapon…
Thank God there are stores now to include The Sinister Shoppe and Anything Left Handed, among many others, that specialize in selling items that can be easily used by left-handers to include those pesky knives and scissors and even left-handed spiral bound notebooks or left-handed boomerangs? Ahhhhh, life’s necessities… But before I got to that point I just learned to use right-handed implements and doubt that I could properly use anything else. You do what you have to do.
My Mother never discouraged or attempted to diminish my sinister leanings, rather encouraged me with many books and manuals for lefties. She never tied my left arm behind my back, rather provided special instruction whenever necessary to include training on how to properly tie a necktie. Mother insisted that my Brothers and I only use a double Windsor knot and literally forbade us from using the four-in-hand or half Windsor and inspected us before we headed out for any occasion that required neckwear. So, who taught me? Yes. Grandfather Littlefield whose left-handed tutelage is appreciated and followed even to this day…
We of that nether gauche world have been told that we are different in so many ways with that statement mostly meant as insult. Well, they are right in that we do process information differently than you righties. Daniel H. Pink in his Revenge of the Right Brain says that we are more creative and imaginative and we are going to slip easily into the upcoming Conceptual Age, the successor to our current Information Age. It’s that right brain, left brain thing all over again.
I could rant and rail all day long and provide long lists of lefties that have contributed mightily (bad and good) to our current state, but you can look those folks up yourself (please) while marveling that this grand and very productive group does seem to far outstrip our small 7-10% minority. I can reflect that some of my favorite left-handers include G. Edward Buxton IV, Alden Llewellyn Littlefield, Don and Phil Everly (The Everly Brothers), Bart Simpson, Steve McQueen, Richard Pryor, Jim Henson, Kermit the Frog, Michael Landon, Mary Brinker, George Bush (the Father), Joan of Arc, Queen Victoria, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, HG Wells, Ronald Reagan, Leonardo Di Vinci and, yes, Michelangelo, among others. I also need note that Terry Sawchuk, NHL Hall of Fame goaltender mostly with the Detroit Red Wings, a personal hero growing up and probably the greatest goaltender to ever play the game, is left-handed. I was a pretty good left-handed goaltender myself and appreciated the competitive advantage it allowed.
Some of the reference sources (web and blog sites - humorous and otherwise) you can easily access include lefty RC and his comprehensive http://www.beinglefthanded.com website and the talented Rosemary Kathleen West (not the serial killer) for her http://www.theworldofstuff.com/lefty/ and her collection of poetry, fiction and drama, Things That Melt. Well done!
One of my favorite blogs is operated by one left-handed fan Molly Prentiss aka Blogging Molly who can be found at http://mollyprentiss.blogspot.com/. She may be my favorite right-handed person that I have never personally met… She writes wonderfully in a stream of consciousness style.
“…right-handers use analysis. The left-handers use synthesis. If there were one thousand pieces of popcorn laid out on the floor, you would be able to find the blue kernels by looking at the whole picture. The right-handers would be sitting in that gymnasium for months, analyzing each stale piece of the Friday night feature.”
So, if you’re a southpaw; lefty; corrie fistit; heilan; corrie, gar-pawed; cuddy-wifter; buck, gibble or keck-fisted; caggy; ballock, cack, golly, scrammy, skiffle, spuddy, crooked or keggy-handed; kay-neived; kerry kittaghy; left-kelly; left-plug or scoochy, rejoice! You’re creative, adaptable, think outside the box and at the top of the food chain.