Out in left field

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 14, 2006

What do Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Prince William of England, Edwin &uot;Buzz&uot; Aldrin, Eudora Welty, Judy Garland, Kermit the Frog and Greenville’s own Linda Horn all have in common?

The answer? Left-handedness.

According to L. Lee Digges, &uot;God created only so many perfect people. The rest he made right-handed.&uot;

Meredith Mann of Greenville says her husband Morgan is one of several very bright, if not necessarily perfect, lefties she knows well.

&uot;Morgan, his dad, his sister and my dad are all left-handed and very intelligent. I always think left-handedness is a sign of intelligence.&uot;

Lefty Andrew Salter of the Sandcut Community would agree.

&uot;Andrew says left-handed people are the smartest people out there,&uot; Andrew’s mom, Tracy Salter, says with a grin. &#8220And he is smart, and can draw really well for a child his age.”

&uot;My husband is left-handed, and the saying goes, ‘Left-handed but always right!&uot; Pratha Harrison of Greenville says.

Celebrating the difference

This Sunday, August 13, the estimated 10 to 15 percent of the world’s population who claim lefty status will have their very own day to celebrate: International Left-Handers’ Day.

Lefties definitely do things differently.

&uot;When my two left-handed sons read magazines, they start at the back first and gravitate to the front. When my oldest goes into a building he is unfamiliar with, he goes to the left first, not the right,&uot; says Kimberlei Bowen, a Greenville Middle School teacher and mother of three.

And there is the whole irritating elbow problem.

&uot;Whenever we go out to a restaurant, I have to make sure I’m not seated to his left or our elbows are constantly bumping into each other,&uot; Harrison says of her lefty husband.

Lefties often march to the beat of a different drummer – and they usually start with their left foot.

Lefties wink with their left eyes, tend to walk in the out door and up the wrong side of the staircase.

If you aren’t careful, they’ll drink out of your glass if you are seated to their left at the dinner table.

It’s all in the brain.

Brain wiring

The brain is one incredibly complex machine, so we’ll try to keep it simple.

The brain is cross-wired, so the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body (you’ve heard the saying, lefties are the only ones in their right minds).

The left hemisphere controls speech, language, writing, logic, mathematics and science – the linear thinking mode.

The right hemisphere controls music, art, creativity, perception, emotions, genius – the holistic thinking mode.

Lefties tend to be more creative individuals, strong in visual thinking.

They often excel in music, art, media-related professions, architecture and design.

And at least one lefty has achieved billionaire status: Bill Gates.

Awkward? Maybe not

Research shows the belief left-handers are more clumsy and awkward than their right-handed counterparts isn’t due to their natural abilities.

They are actually quite good at ball sports and eye-hand coordination.

However, being forced to use right-handed tools and equipment that are literally &uot;backward&uot; can cause problems.

&uot;I remember those partial desks in college classrooms that fatigued a lefty very quickly,&uot; Linda Horn of Greenville, a lefty who raised two lefty children, recalls.

&uot;That was the biggest challenge. I think sewing and needlework are the most difficult tasks to teach using the opposite hand.&uot;

Many lefties learn to be ambidextrous, that is, able to use both hands, to some degree.

Bobby Long, a native of Greenville who lives in San Antonio, Texas, is a lefty who bats and plays golf with his right hand.

Linda Horn says she and her fellow lefty children can become &uot;righties&uot; when incapacitated.

One local lefty was forced to switch after a life-threatening illness.

&uot;I was paralyzed on my left side back in May 1983. I had brain surgery for a brain abscess,&uot; Linda Parrett of Greenville says.

&uot;I learned to eat and do things for myself with my right hand…I had started doing counted cross stitching around that time.&uot;

Happily, Parrett regained use of her left side and made a full recovery. She learned a valuable lesson from her experience.

&uot;You can learn to use your other hand…I did not let it slow me down.&uot;

In fact, the difficulties left-handers face on a daily basis seems to encourage a greater ability to adapt to their situations in life.

As for the much ballyhooed research that said lefties die earlier than right-handed people, that claim has been refuted by further scientific evidence.

Where did all

the lefties go?

The minority status of lefties hasn’t always been the case.

Stone age tools discovered seem pretty equally divided between left and right-handed use and early cave drawings actually show a preference for the left hand.

One theory suggests right-handed preference may have originated with sun worship.

In the Northern hemisphere, you have to face south to follow the sun, and move from left to right until the sun sets in the west.

This gave moving to the right and the right side a new importance.

Another theory suggests that since the heart is on the left hand side, a shield would be in one’s hand to defend it.

Any weapon therefore had to be held in the right hand, and this became the dominant hand.

More recently, there has been speculation right is the normality, and left-handedness, is a deficiency resulting from a traumatic birth.

Prejudices against left-handedness, considered abnormal, strange, even Satanic in origin, prompted parents and teachers through the centuries to force children showing a preference for their left hand to switch.

&uot;My grandfather Morton, the first Anselm Herbert Morton, was naturally left-handed, but lived in those strict Victorian times,&uot; Herbert Morton of the Ridge, a lefty himself, recalled.

&uot;His teachers forced him to use his right hand in all schoolwork. He was very bright and ended up graduating from Georgia Tech as a mechanical engineer at age 19. He went to work for the L&N Railroad where his crew called him &uot;the kid.&uot; He routinely added two columns of numbers in his head at the same time, with correct answers for both columns!&uot;

The ‘write’ hand

Thankfully, most left-handed prejudice has disappeared in the classrooms, though some teachers still try to &uot;persuade&uot; their lefty students to use their right hand when writing.

And writing can be a tricky subject for the lefty.

However, the correct approach can eliminate the smudging, left-leaning letters and cramped hook-hand common to lefties:

n Lefties should tilt the paper to the right, to make the line from the tip of the pen or pencil to the elbow at right angles with the direction of the writing.

n Lefties use a different, subtler movement than right-handers, like pulling a splinter with a pair of tweezers.

n Subtle movements demand good tools. A pencil, fountain pen or roller ball works better for lefties.

The above method allows the lefty not to lose sight of what he has written or to smudge his writing.

A right-handed parent attempting to teach his left-handed child to tie shoelaces should do so facing the child rather than at the child’s side, allowing him to mirror his parent’s movements.

There is much, much more concerning the world of left-handers, including left-handed products and books on the subject to be found on the Internet.

Here are some Websites to visit: www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk, www.swycaffer.com/divpeg/August/lefties/html, and www.hirschy.net/lefties/trivia.html.