Life as a left-hander is a complicated business. There’s never a pair of lefty scissors lying around when you need one, writing with a pen leads to an ungraceful smudge or a cramped paw, and tin openers frankly mock you. Lefties make up 10 per cent of the population, but they’d be forgiven for thinking that the world was designed by a slightly different race.
Step forward Peter Luff MP, a former Tory defence minister who is calling for an overhaul of teacher training and the national curriculum so that southpaws are given the space and “correct implements” to achieve the same results as right-handed pupils. He says that left-handed kids are currently being made to feel “clumsy and awkward” at school – an argument that is backed up by plenty of first-hand experience.
For years, left-handedness was seen as an affliction to be cured, and it seems probable that there remains an ingrained – if unthinking – bias against left-handed people today. Indeed, even the word ‘left’ speaks of an Alpha and Omega, deriving as it does from the Anglo-Saxon ‘lyft’, meaning ‘weak’.
But being left-handed isn’t all bad news. With the aid of some statistics and a splash of imagination, we’ve come up with five reasons why being left-handed is brilliant. Far from helping the lefties, maybe it’s their boring right-handed brethren who need the extra attention.
1. Lefties become President
With the exception of George W Bush (a sore thumb in any group of men), the last five US leaders have all been left-handed.
Coincidence? Well, maybe. The preponderance of lefties in fields that are traditionally associated with intellect, such as mathematics and politics, has led to conjecture that left-handed people are simply smarter. Theories abound as to why: some claim it’s due to left-handers’ superior use of the right-hand side of the brain, while others suggest lefties train themselves to think problems through from a young age as they have to find solutions in the right-hand designed world.
Whatever the reasoning, lefties do seem to rise to the top. Look at the list of Nobel Prize winners and you’re faced with a disproportionate amount of left-handers, while Mensa says that 20 per cent of its members are similarly orientated (that’s double the amount you’d expect).
2. Lefties win at sport
Watch Wimbledon this year and you’ll inevitably hear commentators discussing a “difficult leftie serve”. As the majority of players are right handed, they’re less accustomed to the angles created by someone who holds their racket in the opposite hand, giving the lefties a natural advantage. It’s particularly evident when lefties serve from the ‘Advantage’ side of the court, from where they can serve at an aggressively wide angle, forcing a right-handed receiver to reach far across his or her body onto the backhand side.
A similar advantage is found in boxing, where fighters aren’t used to defending against someone who leads with their left, and cricket, where many of the world’s best batsmen have been left-handed. In swimming, meanwhile, research has suggested that left-handed athletes such as Mark Spitz adjust more readily to seeing underwater.
3. Lefties spend less time queuing
Seriously. Imagine facing a line of 20 supermarket checkouts. Which one do you choose? Studies show that people tend to veer towards their dominant side: right-handers go right, left-handers go left. As a result, the queues on the left are often shorter – which means lefties spend less time waiting in line.
4. Lefties are better at learning to drive (in the UK at least)
Left-handed drivers are ten per cent more likely to pass their driving test, according to the AA Driving School. A significant reason for this could be the use of the gear and clutch, which require precise motor skills. Both are positioned to the left of the driver.
5. Lefties make natural catwalk models
As the best models know, you have to be able to turn left as well as right to reach the top of your game. As a leftie, turning left comes as naturally to you as throwing a left hook in a fight. Not that you ever would, of course – even the most bitter rivals in the modelling world wouldn’t dream of harming a colleague’s face.