The Puzzle of Left-handedness
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The Puzzle of Left-handedness

By (author) Rik Smits

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Left-handedness seems to be no big deal. Many of us are left-handed and those of us who aren't don't tend to give left-handedness much thought. Yet throughout history left-handers have been associated with clumsiness, untrustworthiness and insincerity. The Latin word for left, sinister, is redolent of all kinds of ominous connotations. Rik Smits uncovers why history has been so unkind to our left-handed forebears. Through an array of historical anecdotes, strange superstitions and old wives' tales, Smits explains why left-handedness continues to be associated with maladies of all kinds, including mental retardation, alcoholism, asthma, hay fever, diabetes, insomnia, suicidal urges, criminality and shorter life spans. But apart from folklore and myth, the notions of left and right have a real and deep influence on the way we experience the world. These influences show up everywhere, from engineering and architecture to music, painting, photography, film and comics. This book shows how, contrary to what many might think, left-handers can write just as well as the rest of us, and explores how and why we came to prefer one hand over the other and how left- and right-handedness are represented in the brain. The greatest puzzle is why in every country one in ten people favours the left hand. It is a mystery as yet largely unsolved, whose solution may very well lie in the secrets of twinning. "The Puzzle of Left-handedness" is an enlightening and entertaining odyssey through the enigmas and paradoxes, theories and experiments surrounding the left-handed among us.

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  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 137.16 x 213.36 x 25.4mm | 362.87g
  • 15 Aug 2012
  • Reaktion Books
  • London
  • English
  • Reprint, Translation
  • 81 black & white illustrations
  • 1780230435
  • 9781780230436
  • 421,277

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Author Information

Rik Smits is a linguist and science journalist and is the author of Dawn: How Language Made Man (2009). He is left-handed.

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Review quote

'There is a "whiff of negativity" around left-handedness, admits the science journalist and lefthander Rik Smits in this fascinating study of the phenomenon ... popular legends about left-handedness - and left v right in general - are scarcely less virulent, and Smits dispatches them entertainingly and ably ... thoroughly enjoyable.' - Sunday Times 'In this scholarly and entertaining book, Rik Smits takes us on an impressive odyssey through the paradoxes and theories of left-handed lore.' - Mail on Sunday '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.' - Times Higher Education

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