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James Ferragut, Published September 15 2012

Ferragut: Lefties shaped the world

Humans have never been subtle in their ability to create and hold to prejudices, stereotypes, and ethnic and religious profiling. It’s in the DNA.

I’ve been proud to carry a unique characteristic that was passed down from my father and for generations on his side of the family. I’ve passed it on to my second daughter and my first grandson. We’re left-handed.

Lefties were the scourge of civilizations for centuries. A little history: 10 percent of the population is left-handed. We lefties stand against the 90 percent who created and control most of the tools for the way we live.

Prior to 3,000 B.C., proto-Indo European language from which Latin, Sanskrit and Greek were derived had a word for “right” but not for “left.” Apparently the taboos associated with the “left side” of the body were unspeakable. When cultural languages finally developed and “left-handedness” was acknowledged, the connotations were appalling.

Latin for left is “sinistre,” which translates to our “sinister.” On the other hand, Latin for right is “dextre” meaning “dexterous.”

In German, “recht” means right-handed while “links” means left-handed and weak. In The Friesen (the northwest region of Holland and Germany) “luf” means “weak AND worthless.” Finally, the Olde English word “lyft” combined with “adle” ultimately became the source of “paralysis.” Nice.

But thanks to scientific and historical research, the influence left-handers have had in shaping Western civilization has been measured and recorded. Science proves lefties have out-performed the 90 percent. Consider this brief list of lefties:

Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Napoleon, Beethoven, Isaac Newton, Queen Victoria, Mark Twain, Henry Ford, Madame Curie, Mahatma Gandhi, Charlie Chaplin, Babe Ruth, Paul McCartney, Bill Gates. Five of our past seven presidents are lefties: Ford, Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton and Obama.

Scientists suggest lefties have innate and learned abilities to create unorthodox solutions that allow us to adapt to a right-handed world. The dominant right hemisphere of the lefty’s brain manages visual and spatial functions of perception, math (influencing industrial design and architecture), the art of war, sports, language and music.

Lefties are more intuitive, empathetic, hot-tempered (McEnroe anyone?) iconoclastic, self-taught, solitary and risk-averse than the 90 percent.

The days of teachers tying our left hands behind our backs or nuns rapping our knuckles with a ruler in an effort to make us use our “right” hands are long gone. We’re no longer victims of overt prejudice and oppression but we are aware that we are still the 10 percent. We are different. We still try to make our way in a world that doesn’t quite fit us. We soldier on quietly but with pride. We are united with the curse and blessing of being lefties. Right on!


Ferragut is a Fargo business consultant and regular contributor

to The Forum’s commentary page.