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A day for left-handers to celebrate!

 

Copyright: nito500 / 123RF Stock Photo

August 13th is International Left-Handers Day! It’s a time to celebrate lefties and to remind people that it’s not always easy to be left-handed in a right-handed world. But why do some people favour their left hands?

Which hand is which?

young girl sitting at a desk and writing in a notebook using her left hand

Copyright: len44ik / 123RF Stock Photo

What we called handedness is the hand you use most often to do just about everything. Whether you’re right-handed or left-handed, there’s almost always one hand that you prefer, ever since you were a baby. This is the hand you use to write or draw, the hand that you’re better at throwing balls with and the one you naturally reach out to grab things with.
 

Lionel Messi out on the pitch getting ready to kick the soccer ball

Soccer superstar Lionel Messi of Argentina is known to be a left-footed player. (Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images)

That hand, which is stronger and more accurate than the other, is called your dominant hand. As many as 90% of people have their right hand as their dominant one. It’s not just hands, lots of people have a dominant foot too!

Why some people are lefties

close-up of a left-hand using a pencil to draw the face of a man

Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

No one knows the exact reason why, but there seem to be a few causes for being left-handed. It can be something you inherit from your family — left-handed parents are more likely to have a left-handed child. Or it may be to do with how brains work, since righties and lefties use different areas of the brain to do things like understand language. Some people think that left-handedness would be more common except that kids get encouraged to do things the right-handed way.

It’s not easy being a lefty

wooden door with a sign saying indicating it is the office of the school Principal

Copyright: mrdoomits / 123RF Stock Photo

In the past, being left-handed wasn’t just rare, it was wrong! People had superstitions about lefties being bad luck and maybe even witches! In school, kids would get punished for using their left hands to write.
 

a table laid out with many different glass dishes filled with different Ethiopian foods

In many countries in Africa, the Middle East and India, it's a no-no to eat with your left hand. (Ethiopian food photo credit: beintro on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA)

That doesn’t happen anymore, but there are still challenges to being left-handed. In some parts of the world, it’s considered bad manners to use your left hand to eat.
 

close-up of a person using a pair of scissors made for a lefty to cut some paper

Cutting paper using scissors for left-handed people. (DIARMID COURREGES/AFP/Getty Images)

And most everyday things, like scissors or notebooks, are designed to be used by right-handed people. Lefties can get a reputation for being messy or clumsy, but it’s often about having the wrong tools.

Can you be both left-handed and right-handed?

close-up of LeBron James making a basket

Basketball star LeBron James can shoot just as well with his right or his left hand. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Yes! Being ambidextrous means you’re equally good at using both hands. This isn’t the same as being able to do some things well with your right hand and other things better with your left — many lefties are taught how to play sports and other activities the right-handed way and get used to it.

Are you ambidextrous?

A truly ambidextrous person can do everything, including printing and drawing, just as well with either hand. It’s really rare, only about 1% of all the people in the world are ambidextrous! Try drawing something with one hand and then the other and see how they compare.