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On the Other Hand (Left-Handedness)

For use with Talking Point worksheets

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On the Other Hand (Left-Handedness)

Postby TalkingPoint » Wed Nov 02, 2005 12:19 pm

On the Other Hand (Left-Handedness)

Left History
According to some sources the origins of bad feeling towards "leftness" may go back as far as the ancient customs of early sun-worshipping civilizations. Apparently they believed that, as the sun moved from left to right in the sky, all things to do with the right were "right"! Easier to prove, however, are documented references to the left being "bad", such as those contained in influential texts like the Bible and reproduced in countless examples of western art. The figure of God can often be seen dividing people into two categories: the good, who are placed on God’s right, and the bad, who are placed to his left.

Left Customs
Certainly, by medieval times it had become the custom to greet a traveller or stranger by shaking hands, with the right hand. This was because the right hand was the one in which people might carry a weapon. By using the right hand to shake hands it was clear that the right hand concealed no weapon and that no danger was therefore present. However, a left-handed person might still be concealing a weapon with his left hand and therefore could not be entirely trusted.

Left Language
Customs such as these worked their way into the language too. The Latin for "left" (and "unlucky") was "sinister". Today "sinister" means "evil", in English. In modern Italian "sinistro" means "crash or accident" (due to being unlucky). In French, the word for left is "gauche" which is also used in English to mean "unsophisticated and awkward". "Mancino", the Italian word for "left-handed" can also be used to mean "deceitful".

Left Luck
In general, it seems that anything to do with the left including actually being left-handed has negative connotations or is at least considered unlucky as far as history, customs and even modern words and phrases are concerned.
However, there are some exceptions: apparently the ancient Egyptians thought that entering a house with your left foot first brought good luck and in ancient Peru the Incas believed that it was a sign of good luck to be left-handed.

Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.

1. According to some sources the __________ of bad feeling towards "leftness" may go back as far as the ancient customs of early sun-worshipping civilizations.

2. The figure of God can often be seen dividing __________ into two categories.

3. The right hand was the one in which people might carry a __________.

4. A left-handed person might still be concealing a weapon with his left hand and therefore could not be entirely __________.

5. The Latin for "left" (and "unlucky") was "__________".

6. "Mancino", the Italian word for "left-__________" can also be used to mean "deceitful".

7. Being left-handed has negative connotations or is at least considered __________.

8. Apparently the __________ Egyptians thought that entering a house with your left foot first brought good luck.
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