Sawbones: Left-handedness


You wouldn't think that we'd find a way to oppress a minority separated from the majority only by which hand they use to eat steak, but you'd be wrong. This week, Dr. Sydnee and Justin walk you through the shameful history of left-handedness.

You can subscribe to their show right now on iTunes! Then tweet about or follow the show on Twitter (@Sawbones) so all your friends and family can be as horrified and entertained as you.

Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


Re-training Lefties

I had a teacher in elementary school who was trained during her grade school years, (probably the 1950s) and is now right-handed completely. She explained that she was forced to write with her right hand, by having her left hand tied behind her back. She never did anything else left-handed ever again.

However, the other lefties that I've known throughout my life have unique attributes. Most of them show some form of ambidexterity. Many of those who write lefty, would play sport righty (shoot a basketball, throw a ball, etc). Aside from sports, some of them would even be able to write righty, or at least be passable in writing righty.

Left-Handedness and ugly writing


At the end of this podcast Sydnee you mentioned that your mother holds her pen/pencil in a weird way...well I know why. I'm left-handed and have always been asked why I hold me pen "like a normal person" and why I have such nice penmanship (I've been asked this by left and right handed people). Once, when I was young, my mother answered this question for me and gave the questioner a brief history lesson. Apparently when correcting lefties failed they would instead teach them how to write with a right-handed slant. In order to do so the student was made to hold their pencil in a very uncomfortable way, basically twisting the hand and wrist around in order to get the slant. Because of this lefties use their entire upper body to achieve this, which as you can suspect, caused pain in shoulders and back and such...which made it that much harder to maintain and thus, caused their penmanship to suffer. If you look at the majority of lefties most write in that manner, it's just another way lefties were forced to conform. My mom went on to say she was very thankful that my preschool teacher (who taught me to write) taught me to do so using the left-handed slant and therefore I could hold a pen without having to contort myself into a weird pretzel and eventually ended up having nice handwriting.
Anyway, I just thought I'd share since you didn't seem to know this part of the tell.


Left handed special people

Great program as all of yours.
I am left handed and even though many things are for right handed, I found been a left handed is better than right handed. You always have the surprise factor in your favor, like in personal defense and sports. We also are more skillful due to our brain using both sides.

Thanks for you programs

Left handed special people

Great program as all of yours.
I am left handed and even though many things are for right handed, I found been a left handed is better than right handed. You always have the surprise factor in your favor, like in personal defense and sports. We also are more skillful due to our brain using both sides.

Thanks for you programs

Left handed is not a handicap

Hi Justin and Dr. Sydnee, I love your program and I got my 12 year old daughter to start like it too.
We are both left handed and not totally agree with your vision of left handed. Of course your program is for fun, but in case you are interested, you can hear the podcast "stuff to blow your mind" the program related to left handed. They portrait a complete different picture. Left handed has some disadvantages and also has great advantages. It is related to the ability of left handed to use both part of the brain, which make them better at sports. That is on my daughter and I, the experience, somehow sports are a lot easier for us, to master and start new sports, plus what they explain about the training to play against the majority right handed, while right handed get train to play other right handed.

Luis & Amanda

Left hands and iron curtain.

Hello. My country was occupied by soviets after a ww2 (Lithuania) and we enjoyed the joys of being under iron curtains. Thanks to poor economic conditions it collapsed when I was just starting school and I was right handed. But my sister was leftie. She was corrected by elementary school teacher (screaming at little kids when they use left for writing seems to be the training mode the teachers were versed into)and to this day she is weird right handed person. Using some things in the left some in the right hand and most of the things she cannot hold naturally with neither. That happened AFTER the soviets vent kaput, but I guess no one was bothered to undo wrongful teaching practices. And parents did nothing, they were taught to obey... My best friend in school did not comply with this being an ultimate leftie, so he was left to repeat a year and given bad grades all the time. He never got to university probably because of that...

Lefthandedness (and death)

I know that you guys said that there is no actual death rate difference between left handed and right handed people, even though there are 5% of older people who are left handed. While I agree that there are probably a lot of people who involuntarily changed, there is actually a higher death rate among the left handed, due to the circumstances that Justin joked about earlier. Our world is designed for right handers, and if a left-handed person reaches quickly for something, even a faucet, it could turn out far worse than for a right handed person.

Show suggestion

Drinking water:

Apparently the Middle Ages wasn't a neverending party. Boo. I've read that Indians in Mexico drink a corn beer nearly exclusively, but the EtOH content is lower than commercially available beer (source: Born to Run). Oooh running shoes is probably another topic.


Hi! I love your podcast, but I just had a quick bit of information in defence of the ancient church;)

The church actually didn't go after witches originally - they would actually kick out/punish people who condemned witches. The idea was that if you BELIEVED in witchcraft, that was pagan. The church believed the only 'magic' came from God, and therefore they couldn't condemn people of witchcraft since it didn't exist.

Obviously they changed their stance when enough of the constituents demanded it, thought they tended to lean more towards 'consorting with demons' than 'witchcraft'.

Not REALLY on topic, but I thought it was a neat tidbit:D

Keep up with the great work!

left handed guitar

im left handed and a guitarist


guitar is a two handed instrument, i prefer to fret the guitar with my left hand and pluck the string with my right

many right handed people play what are called 'left handed guitars' it really has to do more with your preference to have your dexterity dedicated to picking or fretting

It depends on what you're

It depends on what you're doing, but it did always seem silly to me that as a right handed person, I was supposed to use my left hand to make complicated configurations (Any F chord for example) while the right simply held a pick and strummed up and down. I would think a left handed person would do much better playing that in the usual string configuration.

However, if you're playing more classical guitar and finger picking then really both hands need to do complex movements, in which case it doesn't matter at all.

Beat Radiolab!

You guys beat Radiolab to their left-handed podcast by a few hours. Score one for Sawbones!

Great Episode! Just thought

Great Episode! Just thought I'd add that the rarity of left handed catchers is not necessarily due to the difficulty of catching left handed. In baseball, left handed pitching is very valuable since there are generally fewer left handed pitchers to choose from. Because of this, if a player who might otherwise be a catcher can throw well left handed, he is often instead groomed for the role of pitching. Similarly, a right handed pitcher with the right build and a decent batting average could be converted to a catcher if his arm is good, but not amazing. This kind of thing happens very early in the development of players, which is why lefty catchers rarely if ever reach the majors.

The difficulty of fielding theory definitely does apply to some infield positions, namely First base, second base, and shortstop.


Mom here,
For the record out of seven children born to a lefty and a righty
Three were lefties, four were righties. Several grandchildren, your
Cousins Syd, are lefties as well. Your little sister tried to be but
Your Dad kept taking the spoon out of her left hand and putting it into
Her right. In other words " correcting her". I had a fourth grade teacher
Tell your Grandmother that I needed to change to my right hand because
Being a left handed person was " the mark of the devil" .
Your Grandmother being a lefty herself did not take that very well
And the result of that exchange proves another point you made,
Lefties are Better fighters;) loved the show!!!! Always do:)

Lefty handshakes

One of the cultures known for shaking left hands is the Ashanti tribe of Africa. The story is that they offered their left hands to prove their bravery because it meant dropping your shield and the other guy could still hold their weapon. The reason this is famous is because the Ashanti were encountered by Lord Baden-Powell who made it the Boy Scout handshake.

Gang members are known to embrace for similar reasons, it's a greeting that doubles as a check for concealed weapons.


Dear Mr. and Mrs. Sawbones,

I have just finished listening to your episode about handedness and you weren't sure how learning to use your other hand feels.

I am one of the unfortunate 10% afflicted by this deadly, deadly malady. For much of my life I have had to endure the harsh realities of having to use my right hand for things.

The tdlr version: you get used to it and it feels natural.

In elementary school I wasn't allowed to touch the computers if I used my left hand on the mouse. I'm thinking this was from old timey religious influence because he never had the same bullshit justification twice.
Here are reasons he offered.
~Using your left hand will break the cord.
~It's impossible to click properly.
~It's like capitalizing at the beginning of a sentence, it is just how it is done.
~The mouse just can't be moved to the other side
~Moving the mouse creates too many problems.
(Luckily I was kinda a dick and kept bothering him)

This ended when my mom yelled at the computer lab guy a couple years later when she found out.
But anyways, I can use both now but my right hand actually feels more natural than my left.

I mostly only write, eat and drink with my left hand. Pretty much everything else is primarily right handed. I am not fully ambidextrous, it's more of a hodgepodge of lefty and righty. For example, I feel left hand dominant with typing on a full keyboard. On my phone, I am right dominant. I am also dominant throwing AND catching right handedly. When eating, my left hand is dominant both with the fork and knife (I have to switch them back and forth). I feel this jumble of left/right dominance is probably fairly typical with people suffering from this dreaded mummy-curse.

potential show topic

Hi Dr. Sydney and Justin,
I love your show, especially the historical perspectives. I would like to suggest that you present the history of measuring blood pressure. every doctor does it and it's an extremely important measure. but i've never heard who thought of measuring it in the first place or if there were different measurement devices tested/used, etc.

keep up the good work and congratulations on your pregnancy. Joanna

Logo Meaning Revealed

Can I just say that today was the first day that I realized the left snake is NOT a Unicorn Snake... it is wearing a dunce cap.