Trivia Teaser

The first stage name of which Academy Award-winning actor starts with the letter N?


A Southpaw Sets Things Right...or Left?


By Christine Lovatt

What do Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Nelson, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton have in common? Apart from being male leaders, they were all left-handed.

In many languages, the word right is not only a synonym for correctness, but also means authority and justice: German and Dutch, recht, French droit, Spanish derecho.  Being right-handed has also historically been thought of as being skilful: the word dexterity comes from dexter, the Latin word for right-handed. In Spanish, diestro means both right-handed and skilful. In Irish, deas means right side and nice. Ciotóg is the left hand and is related to ciotach meaning awkward.

Meanwhile, the English word sinister is also the Latin word for left but took on meanings of evil or unlucky. The German word for left is links, and the adjective link in German has the meaning of devious. You can see another negative meaning when you look at the French terms. Right is adroit which also means skilful. Left is gauche meaning awkward.
Southpaw is the more common name for a left-hander and comes originally from boxing.

As you can see, left-handers have had a very bad press. They’ve been labelled awkward and unlucky to devious to downright evil. All these terms were made up by right-handers of course. Most countries around the world have discriminated against the left-handed 10% of the population since earliest times.

In his book Right-Hand, Left-Hand, Chris McManus of University College London, argues that left-handed people as a group have historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers. He says that left-handers' brains are structured differently in a way that widens their range of abilities, and the genes that determine left-handedness also govern development of the language centres of the brain.

Speaking as a southpaw myself I’d like to point out the double adversity of evil repute and right-handed tools that we lefties have to endure. So remember to be kind to your left-handed kith and kin because we might turn evil and clumsily stab you with our right-handed scissors.

Happy puzzling!


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A Southpaw Sets Things Right...or Left?

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