No Left Turn Unstoned

30 October 2011


Janis Joplin with two left handed people.


Ken Kesey had a place in La Honda, California, where there was a sign with this message. The world’s first Acid Tests were performed there.


The main thing about left handed people is that they are adaptable. They have to be, being born into a right handed world. So, left handers are ambidextrous, shifty, labile, flexible and often sly and slinky. From an early age they learned that there is more than one way to do something. Nicole Kidman had to learn that.


There are scholarships for left handed people, because, well, we’re rather backward.


I often paint with both hands when i’m in a hurry, or when the background is very simple. I paint the background and foreground at the same time.

RJ Franco took this photograph:


The left hand is governed by the right brain, seat of intuitive, non linear thinking, so left handed people are overrepresented in art, music, drama and other creative endeavors.


The Italian word for left handed “mancino” means crooked or maimed. “To the left” in Italian is alla sinistra which has sinister connotations. Leonardo was left handed.


Manu sinistra pro destra utitur (Latin). She uses the left hand for the right.

But when she plays the piano Aretha Franklin uses both hands. There are no left handed pianos.


The rudder on a seagoing vessel was attached on the right side, the steerboard side, the starboard. So docking was done on the left, the port side. Cole Porter often sailed Port Out Starboard Home (POSH).


In ancient Hebrew, left handers were called “eetair yad y’mini,” a constricted right hand. Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes opinions with her left hand.


Dutch “linker” left handed came from Old High German “slinc,” related to Old English “slincan” crawl, slink. In Swedish linka equals “limp, dangling.” M. C. Escher did all of those amazing drawings with his left hand.


In Bulgarian, there are three words for a left handed person. Levichar, levoger and levak. Levak is considered very offensive. There is a term lefteren (from English “left”) which describes something that’s not working properly or isn’t strong enough. Angeliina is as beautiful as her name suggests, and she is gauchée as the French call a left handed woman.


In Chinese, the word left is sometimes associated with the “dark side.”

Albrecht Dürer, a left handed person, very successful in his own time, had his own dark side.


In Danish, Venstre-håndet means using the left hand. Note the similarity to “sinister” (Latin) Kejthåndet, another word for left handed, has the word “kejthet” in it which means clumsy, awkward. This is a Danish leftist.


The origin of left and right as applied to politics goes back to the seating in the Chambre des Deputés, which our own congressional seating imitates.


When Democrats enter the House they file to their left, and when the President addresses the chamber, s/he sees the Democrats on her/his right.


The Republicans sit on the “right.” That is, on the right as they enter the Chamber, the House. When the President addresses the Republicans, he sees them as being on his left, but they see themselves as being on the right.


Barbara Dennerlein is a left handed German woman, worshipper at the Hammond B3 altar, as am I. They didn’t make any left handed Hammond B3s either. You have to play them with everything you’ve got. Both hands and both feet. You could use your nose too, and, god knows, no one would complain. Barbara is such a great B3 player, cool, hot, collected, happening.


In Dutch, the word for left handed is Linkshandig. In the Brabants dialect, Links means “inside out,” especially for clothing. The Great Dictator was left handed too, just as Adolf Hitler was. Tellingly, though, Hitler signed autographs with his right hand.


Charles Chaplin played the violin left handed. This is very rare. Most violinists, left or right handed, will play the instrument with the bow in their right hand.


Elizabeth Cotten was our hero when we were 18,19, and still today. She had a beautiful fingerpicking style that we all tried to emulate. Maybe her special sound had something to do with the fact that she simply turned a right handed guitar upside down, so that the treble strings were on top.


In German, Links and linkisch (left) mean awkward. Einstein was a linkshänder, although I see him write at the blackboard with his right hand. He and Picasso used either hand.


The Hindi phrase “ulta haanth” means the left hand, and it has the literal meaning “opposite, wrong.” Eudora Welty never married and lived in the same house where she was born in Jackson, Mississippi, all her life. She wrote beautiful, unsentimental stories for The New Yorker with her left hand.


The Hungarian language has the word “bal” for left. “Balszerencse,” left luck, means disaster. “Baleset,” left event, is an accident.


Gaelic “ciotóg” left, means “the strange one.” “Citog” means left or stupid.

Fiona Sit likes to draw with her left hand. She speaks Cantonese, English, French and Mandarin.


Romanian “stangaci” means left hander as well as unskillful.

Paul Klee is left handed and his birthday is 18 December. We have a lot in common.


Australian slang has the phrase “Mollie Dooker,” for a left handed person, meaning something to do with having fists like a girl.

If you’re going to be a feminist, and who in their right mind wouldn’t be?, you could always look like Germaine Greer, noted left hander. Germaine lived at The Chelsea Hotel when we did, and she was always cheerful, kind and smart.


Polish people say “leworeczcy” or “mankut” for left handed, terms that also mean illegal. Goldie is using both hands to assume the position here.


“Canhoto” (Portuguese) is left handed. Canhoto also means lacking ability or physical coordination, clumsy. In Portugal, the Devil is canhoto. A common saying is “Diabo sejas cego, surdo e mudo! Lagarto, lagarto, lagarto sejas canhoto!” (Devil be blind, deaf and mute. Lizard, lizard, lizard be left handed!”) Michelangelo, definitely left handed. My “Leftar” would have told me that even had I not known. I mean, any artist who would argue with a pope must be more than a little obstinate and gauche.


Remember the Eugene Levy character in Best In Show? He had two left feet.

When Tamra Engle is sailing down the Seine towards the Atlantic Ocean and she passes through Paris, la rive gauche, the Left Bank will be on her left, the south side.


Tamra Engle with Steve Martin. No… just kidding, it’s the equally estimable Willy Porter.


Tamra in front, the farthest from the left.


In Mexico, “chueco” means “bent.” It also means left handed. There are other words for someone like Jessica Alba, zurda, manca, siniestra, all meaning left handed.


I’m going to pay him a left handed compliment and say that I will vote for him, but I’m not going to be totally thrilled about it. I’m hoping that when he gets in there for his last term, he will really step on it and deliver all of the beautiful promises he made the first time.


Filipinos say “kaliwete” for left handed. When someone is called a “kaliwete,” it can mean that the person is unfaithful, a two timer. Lady Gaga is left handed.


In Russian, left handed is “levsha,” meaning not trustworthy. In the Orthodox church, the women sit on the left side. Paul is a lefty, but he plays drums right handed.


Scottish people can be corrie-fisted which comes from the Gaelic “cearr” which means left or wrong hand. My Leftar (like Gaydar, only for left handers) would have told me that Marilyn Monroe was left handed even had I not known that.


“Zurdo” in Spanish is left handed. “No eres zurdo.” (You’re not lefthanded) means “you are clever.” Right handed people are “diestro” (able, dextrous) and left handers are “siniestro” (creepy, freakish). In Spanish there is also a very proper word “manco” (cognate with Italian mancino) that means left handed. Picasso era manco, zurdo, chueco y siniestro. He’s painting Guernica with his left hand.

And he’s painting this plate with his right.


In Swahili left is kushoto, or weak. Weak would hardly describe Oprah Winfrey, though, and she’s left handed.


Ahhh, here we go. In Swedish, vänsterhänt is left handed. “Vänster” left originally meant “the favorable side,” and is related to vän (friend). Rafaello Sanzio (Raphael) drew and painted like an angel and he did it with his left hand.


Turkish solak (left handed) also means obstinate, clumsy, out of balance, not functional. Pink, who uses her left hand for most things. She was once going to play Janis Joplin in a film.


Lifshá (Ukrainian) for left handed means sneaky or mistrustful also. Benjamin Franklin was sly, inventive, a typical left hander.


Chwith in Welsh is left handed. O’i chwith means something is wrong or out of place.


Baseball diamonds were often made with home plate in the western corner of the field so that the sun would not be in the batsman’s eyes. Thus, when a left handed pitcher faced the batter, the pitcher’s throwing arm was on the south side. He was a southpaw. Lenny Bruce was definitely out in left field somewhere.


In Belarus (White Russia) there is a word “liewsha.” It means left handed, and it also means sneaky or mistrustful. Shirley MacLaine is left handed.


Dave Barry, one of the many people who is left handed, but who plays guitar right handed. Duane Allman and Gregg Allman are two others. I’m another.


A left handed snowboarder is called “Goofy,” and a left oriented board is called a “Goofy Board,” because the board is designed to slant in the opposite direction of the right handed boards. Tina Fey is goofy in her own goody, goody style.


Cack handed to mean left handed is term I have never heard, but it is apparently quite common in the UK. It is related to Old English cack, excrement or dung. Cachus was Old English for a privy. These words come from Latin cacare, to defecate. Matt Groening celebrates left handedness in his own left handed way.


Left handed people are also over represented in the gay community.


A left handed person photographs left handed people. Cecil Beaton.


In Thailand, there is a phrase “e sai pai kee,” which means people who use the left hand to touch excrement.


Tippi Hedren, left handed mother of Melanie Griffith.


You don’t want to be left handed in the Arab world. These people lived in the desert where there was little water, so the left hand is used for all unclean purposes and the right hand is used for taking food out of the communal bowl.


Albert King not only played the guitar left handed, but he also strung and tuned his guitar differently so it was often impossible to tell what he was playing. Those beautiful string bends that he used resulted from his being able to pull the strings down instead of having to push them up as right handers do.


In Japanese and Chinese, “left” is written like this:


The above is basically a drawing that represents the left hand in this position:


The left hand was considered a helper for the right hand, so the original meaning of this character was “to help.” Now it means “left” and in Japanese can be pronounced SA or hidari. When the character is used in combination with other characters, it is pronounced SA. When it is used alone it is usually pronounced hidari.


In ancient times, the right side was considered to be better. Left meant inferior, low status, contrary, evil.


Hidari kiki (left handed in Japanese)


The characters for left and right written together have several meanings:


“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”     Mark Twain. (left handed)


We’ve left.

(Taking the kindergarten diploma in my left hand.)

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company