What's Left?

When I was a small child, I showed a preference for using my left hand. My old world grandparents tried to change the hand I held things with to the “right” hand. I was stubborn –I admit it!–even then–and changed the item I clutched back to my left hand. Thus began my awareness of what was right and left.

As a lefty, so many connotations subtly cause a person to realize they are not in the mainstream. When something is correct, you are “right.” When I studied French, I found that the word for left, “gauche,” is the English word that means “socially awkward.”

Supposedly, about ten to twenty percent of people are naturally left-handed. If people switched things to your right hand, you might have wound up stuttering. Socially awkward, indeed!

Lucky for me, my stubbornness prevented that. I never stuttered.

But as I went through school, I remember vying for the one left-handed desk in a room full of desks. If your only choice was a right-handed desk, in the effort to rest your left hand on the desk to write, it could seem like you were twisted about. Depending on the enlightenment of the teacher, that made you look like you were trying to see a neighbor’s work – and you’d be labeled a CHEATER!

Other connotations of left vs right:


Elvis has LEFT the building – as in, he’s gone!

Or “I left my heart in San Francisco.”

Left, as in a political extremist – in the 1950s – a Communist – and open to blacklisting and other discrimination.

Left behind – implies regret, perhaps a sense of abandonment or not keeping up.

Left-handed compliment – not a good comment.


“Right on!” – as an affirmative comment.

I’ll be “right back” – a quick – positive connotation – return.

“Right where I left it” – confusing usage, but “right” is the positive implication.

“Right answer!” – game show usage for being correct.

Some of the illustrious people who are left-handed include Oprah, Einstein, Bill Gates and others. Not bad company to be in, correct? Indeed, some studies show that there are more left-handed geniuses (IQ over 140) than those favoring their right hand.

So, lefties, take heart! Despite the imagery we’re saddled with, since brains and their correlation show that left-handed people’s hand preference is controlled by the right brain, we are the only ones in our “right mind.” (We’re not crazy! A dubious distinction since the word “right” is used.)

Next time you pick up something, right-handed people, try using your left hand. You might understand why lefties are labeled socially awkward. We work harder by necessity!

Photo: Dave Barry – holding a pen in his left hand- proof he’s a lefty and the author – a lefty

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