Fun Facts

Writing

Need help teaching a left-handed child to write? Looking to break the habit of writing in a twisted or hook-handed posture? See our guide to Writing Left.

Typing

Using a standard "qwerty" keyboard, and typing with both hands in the conventional manner, the number of words in English that are typed solely with the left hand is in the neighborhood of 3400. Around 450 words are typed solely with the right hand.

Some long words that use only the left hand are: desegregates, reverberated, watercress, aftereffects, sweaterdresses

Need a left-handed cursor on your computer? You can download this one, courtesy of Dr. Steve Bell. (Note that this is a ZIP file; you will need to un-ZIP it to get the cursor.)

People

Occasionally I'm asked questions such as, "What state has the most left-handed people?" or, "Are there more left-handed men or women?"

It's highly unlikely that anyone can give an accurate answer to questions like these. Whether or not a person is left-handed is something that is often unknown, uncertain, and subject to interpretation. Official sources of information, such as the U.S. Census, do not keep track of this. Be very skeptical of anyone who claims to "know" something definite about the number of left-handed people in the population, or the distribution of lefties in a particular subgroup.

The Kerr Clan of Scotland has a reputation for having been largely left-handed. This may have been genetic, or possibly a skill that was learned to give them an advantage in battle.

In the 1992 U.S. Presidential election, all three major candidates were left-handed. According to most resources, there have been six left-handed presidents: James Garfield, Harry S Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton. Some sources also list Herbert Hoover, but our research now indicates that he was right-handed.

According to the 1990 U.S. Census, Left is the 62,465th most common surname in the United States. Lefthand is slightly more common, at 55,970th.

Genetics

The role genetics may play in handedness is not clear. It is possible, common, and normal for two right-handed parents to have a left-handed child, and for two left-handed parents to have a right-handed child. Some families do seem to have more lefties than others, but the meaning of this is elusive.

Health

Is it true that left-handers have a significantly shorter life expectancy than right-handers? No, it's not true. This got big headlines when some researchers did a study that they claimed showed this. But later, when the mistakes in the study were revealed, the big headlines didn't happen, because of course the correction is never as sensational as the original wild claim. So all most people remember is the original claim, not the retraction.

However, a new study, conducted in the United Kingdom, suggests that left-handers may be a tiny bit more vulnerable than righties to certain diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colitis, ulcerative colitis and Crone's disease. Nothing in the study indicates why this may be true. It's not likely something we need to worry about.

Words

Why are lefties sometimes referred to as "southpaws"? It's a term that apparently originated in sports. The most common explanation is that it had to do with the typical layout of a major league baseball field. A left-handed pitcher would end up facing south as he finished throwing the ball. However, some experts believe the term was actually in use as a wrestling term before there was such a thing a major league baseball, so the true origin is uncertain.

Animals

Many people repeat as fact the claim that all polar bears are left-handed. This assertion seems to be based on a long-held belief among native people in polar bear regions. However, this seems to be a philosophical description, in which left and right are metaphors for spiritual or psychological concepts. For facts about polar bears, see Polar Bears International.

Misc

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More

For more information, see the research page and the FAQ.

1 comment:

  1. Having been a left handed baseball pitcher in my youth, I was told that lefties are called "southpaws" because, when standing on the mound, the left hand is towards the south of the then most common ballpark layouts where home plate was in a north or northeastern direction if one was standing on the mound. A left handed pitcher better not be facing south as he/she finishes their throw, or else they could be severely injured by a batted ball they didn't see coming!

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