Left-handed people are usually perceived as “the odd one out” or queer. Apparently left-handed people make up just ten percent of the global population. There are many negative connotations associated with the phrase "left-handed": clumsy, awkward, unlucky, sinister and malicious. Black magic has also been referred to as the ‘left-hand path’.
It’s evident that there’s an agenda against left-handedness!
A few days ago, I read an article by Thapelo Otlogetswe in his Linguistic Chair column titled, ‘The left-hand is for wiping the bottom’. He wrote that the left-hand is considered “unclean” because it is used to wipe the bottom after defecation. He cited examples of how Biblically ‘those on the right inherit the kingdom of God while those on the left depart into damnation of the everlasting fire.’ He also described the left-hand, as letsogo la molema the most diminutive hand. “You neither write nor eat with the left hand unless o le segole, the kind that should be left to die in the evil forest at birth’ Uhu? Heedu, tleke Serowe!
I was interested in the article because I am left-handed, or “south paw”, as we are derogatorily. I am aware that using the left hand is considered a nasty habit. My quick research on the Internet revealed weird beliefs, like that left-handedness was “a mark of the devil, sign of neurosis, rebellion, criminality and homosexuality.” On the positive side, left-handed people have been indicated to be quite intelligent with a higher than average IQ, creative and likelier to be wealthy.
I haven’t dealt with much prejudice as a left-handed person expect the occasional attempts at ridiculing me, or the intrigued stares I get from people fascinated by the fact that I do everything from my left. Adjusting to a world where many tools and procedures are designed to facilitate use by right-handed people without realising the difficulties placed on us is often a challenge, but I think most left-handed people deal with it early in life. Growing up, I didn’t see the big deal with using the left-hand because I have two relatives who use that hand. Interestingly, when I was in primary school, I wrote with both hands, which is called ambidextry. My then teacher Mrs. Stevenson, then asked me to write with the hand I was comfortable with because I kept switching hands which made my already ugly handwriting, more difficult to read. I settled on my left hand. When she noticed this, she was astonished and exclaimed, ‘Good Lord child, you are using left hand?’ I just shrugged.
What I have found interesting is that scientists claim that handedness displays a complex inheritance pattern.
I researched a bit and found that some studies suggested that premature born babies were likely to be left-handed, while others noted that if left-handed injured their dominant hand, they had an easier time learning to use the other hand compared to their right-handed counterparts. It gets more weird, I stumbled across an interesting “fact” that claims that left-handed people had a twin in the womb that did not survive. Jeez! How creepy does it get?
In the book, Right-Hand, Left-Hand, Chris McManus revealed that the proportion of left-handers was increasing and left-handed people as a group have historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers. He further stated that left-handers' brains are structured differently (in a way that increased their range of abilities) and the genes that determined left-handedness also governed development of the language centers of the brain.
The Jewish, Islam and Christians are more right-handed in their nature and practices and are more likely to perceive left-handedness negatively. Historically, there have however been tribes that saw left-handedness positively. The North American Zuni tribes for example, believe left-handedness is a sign of good luck.
On the upside, I discovered that there are many famous left-handed people you all know, such as Brad Pitt, Marilyn Monroe, Bill Gates, Aristotle, Albert Einstein, Mozart and Barrack Obama, to mention a few.
On the flipside, I find it absurd that a group of people would be generalized to have the same traits and fate in life, based on their handedness. Furthermore, we need both hands to enhance functionality.
I have seen many right-handed people scratching their crotch with that hand thinking we can’t see them, o bona gore motho yo ga ingwae, o a ikgwabitla! In that case, if the left hand is for wiping bottom, it’s perhaps safe to say the right hand is for scratching the crotch?