A high-five to left-handers today

— it's annual Left Handers Day today and 'ciotógs' or 'southpaws' are saluted
A high-five to left-handers today

Some famous left-handers: Leonardo da Vinci, Barak Obama, Jimi Hendrix, Bill Gates, Justin Bieber and Michael O'Leary

Today is annual Left Handers Day — a chance for left-handers everywhere to celebrate their unique interpretation on life.

But being left-handed is not an easy road travelled. Accounting for only 11% of the global population, left-handers were once associated with evil, bad luck, mental deficiency, cruelty, even murderous tendencies.  These days it's more likely to be a touch of clumsiness arising from having to use gadgets and implements designed for people who favour their right hand.  So maybe that was in the mind of whoever chose Friday 13th to celebrate left handers, oh dear.

In Albania, during the 1970s, left-handedness was made illegal; in certain parts of Africa, the candidate for chief a tribe would no longer be considered if they were left-handed; while in Ireland, many schoolchildren were once forced to write with their right hand even if they were naturally left-inclined.

In more recent years, schools have made sure to have one or two pairs of ‘special scissors’ in school, for the left-handers.  But the layout of books and lecture theatre desks has often meant 'inky pinkies' and smudged copies. 

'Inky pinkies' and copybook smudges can be a problem for left-handers
'Inky pinkies' and copybook smudges can be a problem for left-handers

Apart from being geniuses of their era and fields, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pele and Julius Caesar were also all left-handed.

Studies have shown that left-handedness is often associated with intellectual creativity. Other famous left-handers include Michelangelo, Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Henson, Bill Gates, Justin Bieber, Ryanair's Michael O'Leary, and US President Obama.

In general, lefties are visual-simultaneous thinkers. This means that they see the 'big picture', rather than thinking in a linear fashion — so they tend to be more successful at multi-tasking. And bizarre as it may sound, one of the benefits of being left-handed is being able to adjust more easily to see the world around you when you’re underwater.

The original meaning for the word sinister was ‘on the left’ before the Classical Latin era turned the meaning into something evil and unlucky. In French, the word for left is ‘gauche’ — the same word often used for clumsy today.

However, things have improved quite a bit for lefties of late. Online stores, such as All Things Left Handed sell items such as can openers, pocket-knives and specially-crafted stationary. Cork Art Supplies stocks left-handed scissors and calligraphy sets for left-handers. And online educational store sensationalkids.ie stocks a range of left-hand-specific stationary items.

Parents of lefties may have noticed their child showing signs of being left-handed long before he/she is old enough to pick up a pen — often at 3 months+ when they first start putting finger food to their mouth with their dominant hand, or sucking their favourite thumb.  Learning to use cutlery, tie laces or play with wind-up toys can all be tricky — particularly if the child's parents are right-handed. 

Left-handedness may become apparent from as young as three months
Left-handedness may become apparent from as young as three months

Lauren Milsom, author of Your Left-Handed Child has lots of practical tips for parents in this situation.

According to the Left-Handers Club, the leading authority on left-handedness, being left-handed has a major influence on your mental and physical development; it boosts creativity and intelligence. Recent studies have also suggested that multiple genes, maybe even close to 40, are related to hand preference.

However, in terms of physical competition, studies show that fortune favors the unusual. In a physical fight, the leftie would often have an advantage because of spatial awareness and a greater chance of landing an unexpected punch.

Lefties: you are rare, and you are loved. High five to that.

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