Puzzle of Left-handedness

Puzzle of Left-handedness

by Rik Smits
     
 

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Left-handedness seems no big deal. After all, it didn't stop anyone from becoming President of the United States. Many of us - just like Barack Obama - are left-handed and those of us who aren't don't really give left-handedness any thought. Yet throughout history left-handedness has been associated with clumsiness and with unpleasant traits such as untrustworthiness… See more details below

Overview

Left-handedness seems no big deal. After all, it didn't stop anyone from becoming President of the United States. Many of us - just like Barack Obama - are left-handed and those of us who aren't don't really give left-handedness any thought. Yet throughout history left-handedness has been associated with clumsiness and with unpleasant traits such as untrustworthiness and insincerity. Just look at the Latin word for left, sinister, redolent of all kinds of ominous connotations.
For author Rik Smits, left-handedness is a puzzle. Why has history been so unkind to our left-handed forebears? In this book he carefully puts together the pieces of the puzzle, presenting an array of historical anecdotes, strange superstitions and weird old wives' tales. In 38 brief and entertaining chapters, he relates how left-handedness was and is associated with maladies of all kinds, including mental retardation, alcoholism, asthma, hay fever, homosexuality, cancer, diabetes, insomnia, suicidal urges and criminality. Even the twentieth century has its opponents - or are these just advocates for right-handedness? - with one prominent psychologist announcing it was tantamount to 'infantile negativism', the equivalent of a refusal to eat everything on your plate; and another claiming left-handed people had lifespans nine years shorter than average. As Smits reminds us, speculation about left-handed mortality was and remains public entertainment - hardly the stuff of real illness.
The Puzzle of Left-handedness is an enlightening, engaging and often entertaining odyssey through the puzzles and paradoxes, endless philosophizing and theorizing, of left-handedness lore.

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Editorial Reviews

Greg Schneider
Smits is no artist (unlike lefty all-stars da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael), statesman (unlike the five of seven most recent presidents who were left-handed) or super cool dude (unlike Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney), but he is a clever and thorough researcher. The Puzzle of Left-Handedness…is sprinkled with enough oddball characters and head-scratching factoids to keep you reading.
—The Washington Post
Sunday Times

“There is a ‘whiff of negativity’ around left-handedness, admits the science journalist and left-hander Rik Smits in this fascinating study of the phenomenon. . . . Popular legends about left-handedness—and left vs. right in general—are scarcely less virulent, and Smits dispatches them entertainingly and ably. . . . Thoroughly enjoyable.”

The Dubliner

“In his highly entertaining and erudite book, left-handed linguist and science journalist Rik Smits dispenses with the positive myths alongside the negative ones.”

Times Higher Education

“It is a lively read, and Smits, a linguist and science writer, shows his wide range of knowledge throughout. . . . The book is well arranged, with mainly short, crisp chapters. I thoroughly recommend it as a good overview of issues related to hand preference. . . . Everyone will find something thought-provoking, witty or just interesting, regardless of personal hand preference.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781861899743
Publisher:
Reaktion Books, Limited
Publication date:
11/22/2011
Series:
non-series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
432,061
File size:
9 MB

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