In medieval times, left-handed people could not become knights because it was thought that they were descendants of the devil, it is said. Spiral staircases in castles ran clockwise to allow knights – all right-handed – to battle intruders effectively.
The word for left in French means gauche and in Latin it means sinister. The Latin word for right is dexter, from which came “dexterous”. Ambidextrous means literally “both right.”
13% of people are left-handed, up from 11% a few decades ago. The story that right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people is a myth.
Animals also are either right-handed or left-handed. Polar bears are left-handed – and so is Kermit the Frog.
Left- or right-hand travel
Before the advent of the motorcar everybody traveled on the left side of the road because most persons are right-handed, the side on which they would draw their sword. If you passed a stranger that walked in the same direction, you pass on the left to ensure that your sword arm was between you. This is actually strange because the natural tendency for people is to keep to the right.
Revolutionary France overturned the practice of traveling on the left as part of its social rethink even though traveling on either side was practiced there. Napoleon carried the change of traveling only on the right over through Europe. The USA, anxious to cast off remaining links with its British colonial past, also opted for traveling on the right, passing the first of such laws in 1792 in Pennsylvania.
Most of the world now drives motorcars on the right – thus, left-hand-drive vehicles. 65 countries still travel on the left – there are 195 countries in the world (the U.S. recognizes 194 independent countries) or 203 sovereign states.
In some countries, such as France, trains travel on the left where there are two tracks. All aircraft and boats keep to the right.