Puzzle of Left-handedness [NOOK Book]

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.
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Puzzle of Left-handedness

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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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781861899743
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 11/22/2011
  • Series: non-series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,353,351
  • File size: 9 MB

Meet the Author

 Rik Smits is a linguist, a science journalist, and author of books on a wide range of subjects.

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Table of Contents

1. Malice and Misunderstanding
2. The Left-handed Picador
3. Opposites and Contradictions
4. Taboos, Sex and Handicrafts
5. Lovers of the Left
6. Magic and Superstition
7. The True Nature of Left and Right
8. Strange Creatures in the Uncanny Valley
9.  Witchcraft and Pogroms
10. Factionalism
11. The Ideal Warrior
12. The Polymorphism of One-sidedness
13. The Heart of the Matter
14. The Power of Small Differences
15. How Freud Found his Right Side and Pooh Didn't
16. Why a Running Rabbit Doesn't Tear Itself Apart
17. Tintin's Law
18. Dead Men and Voluptuous Women
19. Mary's Little Troublemaker and Other Portraits
20. Little Johnny Cries to the Left, Little Johnny Smiles to the Left
21. The Circle Dance of the Alphabet
22. The Weight of the Liver
23. The Morbid Views of Abram Blau
24. Thwacking and Hurling
25. Thinking About Brains
26. Animal Crackers
27. Other Asymmetries and Preferences
28. Tallying Up
29. Genetic Left-handedness
30. Hormonal Left-handedness
31. How Even Detrimental Characteristics Can Survive
32. Left-handers as Undercover Twins
33. The Consequences: Contrary, Perverse and Sick
34. Two Left Hands: The Ford Scale
35. The Things That Make Us Do
36. Writing and Other Useful Handiwork
37. The Myth of High Left-handed Mortality
38. Creative, Musical, Brilliant and Famous!

Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements
Index

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