Are you right-handed or left-handed? Chances are you’re probably right-handed.

If so, you probably haven’t given a whole lot of thought to “handedness.” If you’re left-handed, chances are you’ve probably given it quite a bit of thought.

Left-handedness — sometimes called "sinistrality" — means you prefer to use your left hand rather than your right hand for routine activities, such as writing. Most people who have studied left-handedness believe that approximately 10 percent of the people in the world are left-handed.

Experts believe this percentage has remained fairly consistent throughout time. Historically, the left side and left-handedness have been considered a negative thing by many cultures.

For example, the Latin word sinistra originally meant “left” but eventually took on the connotations of “evil” or “unlucky.” This connotation lives on today in the form of the English word “sinister.”

These ancient meanings affected subsequent languages. For example, modern European languages, as well as English, define the word “right” as “correct.” “Right” is also often associated with the concepts of authority and justice.

One popular slang term for left-handers is “southpaw.” This term originated in the sport of baseball.

Because most baseball fields are aligned such that pitchers face west, left-handed pitchers would throw the ball with their hand on the south side — their “south paw.” If you follow baseball, you probably have heard of several famous “southpaw” pitchers, including Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford and Steve Carlton.

Why most people are right-handed and only some are left-handed remains a bit of a mystery. Since scientists have noticed that left-handedness tends to run in families, it’s assumed that left-handedness has a genetic component to it. In other words, left-handers are born that way.

In 2007, scientists discovered a gene that appears to be related to left-handedness. However, researchers are quick to point out that it’s a complex issue and no definite conclusions can be reached yet.

Scientists continue to study handedness. Some believe that rather than looking at handedness as an either-or question — either right or left — it may be better to think of handedness as a spectrum.

Some people may be very strongly right-handed or left-handed, while others may be in between these extremes and have a certain level of comfort with both hands.

At 10 percent of the population, left-handers are definitely a minority. As a minority, left-handers face certain issues that most of us never think about.

For example, most everyday items, such as scissors, cameras, can openers, rulers, computer mice and watches, are mass-produced for right-handed users. Left-handers often have trouble using these objects.

Depending on the object, this trouble can be hazardous to their health. For example, most power tools are made for right-handed users. Left-handers who have trouble with such tools can find themselves in a dangerous situation in a hurry!

Luckily, there are now more manufacturers who make special left-handed versions of many items. Left-handers often have to order these specialty items through catalogs or websites.

 

Did you get it?

Test your knowledge

Wonder What's Next?

Do you need to fly to travel through a cloud? Not necessarily! Find out why tomorrow in Wonderopolis!