by Wong Si Jia
Did you know that Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lawrence, Keanu Reeves, Anna Kendrick, and Prince William are all left-handed? Comprising of a meagre 10% of the world’s population, they sure are a rare find. Such rarity is often regarded as unique and sometimes weird. With its fair share of strange and quirky facts, being a southpaw (left-handed person) is certainly no exception to that sentiment.
Weird Fact #1: Association with the Devil and everything negative
Derived from the Anglo-Saxon word lyft, which means ‘weak’, the word ‘left’ has always been depicted in a less-than-stellar light. For example, left-handedness was seen as a sign of the Devil in the medieval times due to the common belief that the ruler of all demons was left-handed; it was also the hand that was used to harm or curse another person, according to witchcraft texts.
Being left-handed has also been stigmatised as being inferior, mad (in all sense of the word) and crime-related. For instance, a majority of pedophiles are coincidentally left-handed, as are famous outlaws, like Albert Henry DeSalvo (The Boston Strangler), Charles Manson, and Osama Bin Laden.
Many claim that left-handers may die as early as nine years before right-handers – could be because the world isn’t laid out for lefties, since they’re five times more likely to die from accidents than right-handers. While some of these facts have been proven to be right (get it?), most are just mere superstitions that should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Weird Fact #2: When it comes to sports, left-handers have the upper hand
What do tennis ace Rafael Nadal, badminton legend Lin Dan, and boxing star Manny Pacquiao have in common? They’re all lefties – a terror to their opponents, serving up a storm from their left sides, or delivering a nasty left hook in the ring.
The competitive edge that comes with left-handedness is especially true for one-on-one sports, as left-handed athletes have a lot more practice against right-handers than the vice-versa. They can easily adapt to their fellow southpaw adversaries as well, thus putting them at a greater advantage. Guess that’s one-love to the lefties!
Weird Fact #3: Left-handed folks are disadvantaged in career and school
A 2014 Harvard study found that left-handed people’s salaries were, on average, 9% to 19% lower than right-handed people. A possible explanation was that left-handers were more likely to not attend or to drop out of college. In a 2009 study of children 11 and under, Australian researchers found that left-handed kids performed worse than right-handers in areas like vocabulary, reading, writing, social development, and motor skills (mixed-handed kids performed even worse).
The theory is that mixed-handed and left-handed children are more likely to use their brains in unusual ways, which gives them a disadvantage.
Weird Fact #4: Left-handed, and a booze lover
The next time you’re at a cocktail party, you may want to keep a closer eye on your left-handed buddies. As it turns out, many studies have shown that lefties do tend to drink more frequently than right-handers.
What about the myth that left-handers face a higher chance of becoming alcoholics? Busted! According to a study in the British Journal of Health Psychology based on 25,000 people from 12 countries, there is no evidence that handedness predicts risky drinking.
Weird Fact #5: The Southpaw’s behaviour
It’s common knowledge that left-handers are spacey, artsy, and angsty. Lefties tend to be prone to negative emotions due to brain laterality (lefties don’t have a dominant side of the brain), hence they can be more sensitive and have an increased risk for ADHD or mood disorders such as schizophrenia – which may lead to psychosis.
In their defense, left handers are better at divergent thinking. Despite being emotional rollercoasters, many left handers are also known to be particularly creative, including Leonardo Da Vinci, The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, and guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. Let’s not forget that Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga are also southpaws.
Left-handed individuals have come a long way, from having a bad name in history to celebrating their community on a marked date. As right-handers, we will never know their struggle of avoiding the smudge of ink on their palms as they write, but what we do know is that they will always be among us.