Right, Left…or Mirror?

Basic cursive writing worksheet


August 13 is Left Handers’ Day, a time for South Paws to celebrate their talents.  Left-handedness is more common in twins than in singles, and overall left-handed people are also usually more physically balanced.  Although lefties were once believed to be cursed and have direct links to evil, now it’s obvious that they have an advantage in sports like basketball, tennis, fencing and boxing.

Studies have also shown that even temporary “practice” activities that make lefties use their right hands and righties use their left hands is a good challenge and also encourages creativity and clearer thinking.  For a real challenge, also try “Mirror Writing,” which is reversed writing that resembles ordinary writing reflected in a mirror.   Emergency vehicles like ambulances often have their identification also written in mirror writing so drivers can look in their rear-view mirrors and read it clearly.

Ambulance in mirror writing

In the movie (and the book) THE SHINING, Danny writes REDRUM, which is murder in mirror writing, and in MEMENTO “facts” are tattooed on Leonard’s chest so he can read them in reflection.   Episodes of “The Simpsons” and “Scooby-Doo” have used it, too.

I was printing words and coloring ambidextrously when I started first grade.  The teacher hit my hand with a ruler and said I had to choose which hand I would use…and my choice had to be right-handed because the world was set up for right-handed use.  (This teacher retired at the end of that year.)

So at school I became only right handed, and it seemed to be working out fine…until at home and on the sly I began mirror writing.  I’m still grateful that my mom did not make a big deal of this or tell me I had to stop. Instead, she got me chalk to write in mirror writing on the sidewalk, and she also asked me to write stories in mirror writing so she could learn to read it.   After awhile I decided I was happy using it as a game and I went on to other things.

August 16 is National Tell A Joke Day.   I’m including this special day because of the comments made on last week’s blog post about the time I took my mother to her senior exercise class where the favorite activity was doing the Hokey Pokey.

UK blogger Jenny Pellet wrote that “Here we call it ‘Hokey Cokey,’” which still has me smiling.  And Colorado writer Nancy Parker Brummett shared this: “When the inventor of the Hokey Pokey died, they had trouble getting him in the coffin. They put his right foot in but then his left foot came out!”  She had me taking this seriously until the final line of the joke!  Thank you, Jenny and Nancy, for sharing these with us. On August 16 we should all tell a joke to make others laugh. The world definitely needs more good laughter.

try your hand at mirror writing



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Special days in July and August, special quotations, writing, writing exercises

40 responses to “Right, Left…or Mirror?

  1. If your Mum had been in New Zealand she could have done the Hokey Pokey and eaten NZ’s favourite ice cream…..Hokey Pokey ice cream.

  2. I think we had a few of those teachers here too Marylin who used a ruler to discourage anyone from using their left hand. I’m not sure it was because of a link to evil but merely because they felt everyone should conform to a ‘norm’. Thank heavens that practice has died out now.
    The last word in your little mirror hand writing exercise has got me bamboozled. Your Mom was a real gem giving you the chalk to write on the pavement so you didn’t lose the ability to use both hands.
    xxx Massive Hugs as always xxx

  3. Thanks for sharing your left-handed story and Hokey-Pokey tidbits. 🙂
    (I didn’t know know hokey-pokey was 19th century slang for ice cream. )

    I’m glad your mom was so encouraging. My older daughter is left-handed. She sucked on the fingers of her left hand as a baby, and I knew. 🙂 She writes with her left hand, but she does many other things with her right. My husband’s uncle–who has the same birthdate as my daughter–is also left-handed.

    • Ice cream with toffee! Makes me want to have a yard party where everyone does the Hokey Pokey and then gets huge cones of the ice cream.
      The first thing I did when I retired, Merril, was move the mouse on the computer from the right-hand side to the left. Then I signed up for an art class in mask making, and I used my right hand as only the “holder” and my left hand for the details. It took me a long time, but I actually got new ideas for doing things, like I had done as a child before first grade.

      • The Hokey Pokey ice cream party would be so much fun, Marylin!
        That’s interesting that you sought out opportunities to use your other hand. I do that occasionally, but not so methodically as you did. I will have to give it a try! (No mouse, but it is different using my left hand on the computer to navigate.)

  4. Imagine if a teacher struck a student with a ruler today? No doubt they’d make the evening news. I love that your mother was so encouraging.I’ll admit, I’m having a tough time translating your mirror writing, Marylin. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend! ❤

    • Oh, you’re so right, Jill. But she was an old, very tired teacher, and I think she found it easier to control first graders than to inspire and encourage them. My mother was not happy about the ruler and she went to talk to the teacher, and I think her wise way of giving me sidewalk chalk and having me write things to teach her to read mirror writing more than off set what the teacher had done. You have a wonderful weekend, too! ❤

  5. HaHa! I loved this post Marylin. Not least because you gave me a mention (thank you!) but also because I’m left-handed! You might remember that I wrote about the difficulties one faces being so afflicted.
    I’m glad I gave you cause to smile over the Hokey Cokey. I looked up its origins because I was so interested –
    Enjoy your weekend. We are Olympics watching for the next few weeks!

    • Now I know about not just Hokey Pokey, but also Hokey Cokey and Hokey Tokey, Jenny. With all the countries covered, I propose that the United Nations’ opening anthem requires everyone to step out and “put their right hand in, take their right hand out” and so on. Kind of shake things up and get everyone to do at least one thing together. 🙂
      I read your post about which way you stir your tea and other left-or-right-handed things, and it brought back my memories of a knitting friend of my mother’s teaching me to knit left-handed to get me started with basic patterns. She was SO very left-handed that I got confused; she even had special left-handed scissors she bought from a catalogue so she could cleanly cut yarn strands.
      It’s Olympic-watching weekend for us, too. Which beats listening to the politicians. 😦

  6. My husband Jim has told me many times that he was a leftie but in school growing up, he was discouraged. I am thankful that we don’t things like that any more!
    I will definitely tell a joke on August 16 Marylin- what a great idea for a holiday!

    • Tell him if they didn’t hit his hand with a ruler, he was miles ahead! 😉
      Can you imagine what you and he would do if a teacher hit Penelope with a ruler to make her stop using her left hand, Joanne?
      If you come up with a good joke, please share it with us. We can all use the laughs! ❤

  7. My daughter, a talented potter, is left handed. I think left handed people are very special and very creative. Both of my parents were left handed too. It often tends to skip a generation. I think every day should be National Tell a Joke Day!

    • I didn’t realize that left-handedness often skips a generation, Darlene, but red hair supposedly does, too. It skipped over my dad and came to me from my grandfather and his sister and cousins, but it didn’t skip my daughter or her children, which was surprising to my family doctor.
      My dad and my uncle would both have agreed with you that every day should be National Tell a Joke Day. They both always had funny, non-hurtful little jokes and quips to share.

  8. My niece is a talented artist and she is left handed. I had a left handed teacher and he was such a great teacher. He taught us to accept differences. I remember trying to write with my left hand. I love the way your mom raised you.

    • Your artist niece and Darlene’s potter daughter prove the point about creativity about left-handers, Gerlinde. And I really like that the teacher you liked so much was left-handed and taught you all to accept differences. It makes such a difference in children’s attitudes.

  9. I think (emphasis on ‘think’) am like you. Right-handed, but feel left-of-centre.

    • Do you find yourself ever writing words with your left hand, Calvin? When you’re creating poetry, you might try stopping in the middle of a line, take a break, and when you come back write the next words and next line with your left hand. I’ve done that when I have writer’s block, stopping in the middle of a sentence. When I come back to it, usually hours or a day later and write with my left hand, I’m stunned at where it takes me. 😉 Sometimes it looks like a child’s scribbles, but the new thought is clear.

      • No I haven’t tried it but I will give it a try. It certainly won’t make my word tinkering worst, it can only help. Your exercise is similar to a Methods and Media exercise, which I did in art school. Anything that keeps our mind on it’s toes is not a bad thing. Your idea bodes well with the CDR method for creative minds -construct, destruct, reconstruct. It changes the out come of what our mind thinks it needs to go.

        Confession one; Forgive me Marylin I have sinned. I never write with pen and paper. Just a keyboard. I do flip between right and left hand for the mouse and typing. Oh I even draw right or left handed be it a digital pen or doodling with pen and pencil.

      • It’s worth a try, Calvin, especially since it’s in line with a Methods and Media exercise you did in art school.
        You’re forgiven for your sin of NEVER writing with pen/pencil on paper, but you might make yourself try that once, too. There’s something special about the sound and feel of pencil scratching words on paper… 😉

  10. juliabarrett

    It is an excellent exercise! I broke my right arm twice so had to write for months with my left hand. Plus I do believe kids who learn piano are more adept at using both sides of their bodies.

    • I think you’re right about piano playing, Julia. Except that makes me laugh now, too; I had a piano teacher who tapped my hands or my back with a ruler when she thought I wasn’t sitting up straight enough. I don’t know what it was with old teachers of that generation, but they were really into using the rulers! 😉

  11. Nancy Parker Brummett

    HA! Glad you enjoyed it, Marylin.

  12. Jim

    Boy, do I agree with your statement that left-handers have the advantage over us righties in tennis! I hated playing against lefties back in the day. Lefties get to practice and play against right-handers all the time. Righties rarely play lefties. When we do play lefties, the spins and drift of the ball are all cattywampus; nothing goes where it’s supposed to. 🙂

    I have to admit to the group that I needed help ‘translating’ your mirror-writing challenge. I think cursive makes it twice as difficult as printing. ❤

    • But now that I’ve read it to you, you can see the words, right? Sometimes at the end of a class period, I’d just go to the board and write a quote or a reading assignment in Mirror Writing on the board. Some of the students “got it” without even pausing, while others had to stay and try to figure it out. I wasn’t advocating Mirror Writing, but it sure got their attention! ❤ ❤ Love you lots, honey, and that's not in Mirror Writing!

  13. You reminded me that in Toronto, several years ago, there was a weather man on tv. He would stand behind a glass map of the area with a marker pen in each hand.

    As he was writing on the wrong side of the glass ge had to write everything in mirror writing. On the left side of the map (from his side) he used his left hsnd. When he reached the middle he seitched to his right hand. Allthe time keeping up his weather forecast patter.

    It was remarkable to watch. Ingortunately I was always so intrigued by his performance I never heard what the weather would be.

    • I would have loved to watch him do that, Rod. Our weather people face the camera but know where the map is and can point without turning to look, but that’s nothing like what your person did. I would have been so impressed, and like you, for me the weather would have come in a distant second! 😉

  14. I find the ways the brain deciphers written language endlessly fascinating as all your examples show. Toward the end of my teaching career, someone showed me a paragraph with all the words written in gibberish – just enough consonants and a few vowels properly placed so that it was possible to “read” all the words and make sense of the entire paragraph.

    I admire your mirror writing – never been good at it perhaps because I haven’t practiced. And about left-handedness. Yes, I’ve heard that left-handed people may be more balanced – maybe even smarter. My brilliant Aunt Ruthie wrote beautifully with her left hand. I’ve noticed President Obama is left-handed. You are!

    About your personal history: wise mama, appalling teacher. (I’d like to SMACK her hand.) 🙂

    • I remember that gibberish paragraph, too, Marian. There’s also another one that is two full pages, and you have three minutest to “read” it and then answer questions, and this one has extraordinary results that make the reader “absorb” the new writing.
      I’m afraid that I never fully got back my left-handedness after the ruler-smacking. Which is probably why I began mirror writing, to make my own compensations. But when I retired and took art classes and used my left hand as the more dominant hand, and also had more time to write notes with my left hand, I found some of it returning. Not completely, though, and I do miss it.
      As I answered Julia’s comment above, my piano teacher also used a ruler to tap hands and backs that were’t as straight as required, so it must have been a trend at the time to used rulers as discipline for young learners. A bad trend that I’m glad has passed, certainly! 😉

  15. Hi Marylin,
    I was intrigued by those (like yourself) who can mirror write.
    And I horrified to learn that nasty teacher made you choose your right-hand to write. You also have a great gift being ambiguous. My hubby is when it comes cutting corners with his paint brush.
    Have a great week. 🙂

  16. Oh, Tracy, you give me extra qualities… 😉 I might be ambiguous, but before the teacher hit my hand with a ruler and made me decided to be right-handed, I was ambidextrous. Your comment made me smile, and I thank you. Have a great week! ❤

  17. I use both hands and after I was trained to use a tube and cover each eye, the eye you cover where the item “jumps out of the aligned sight of the tube” represents the handedness. My brother, mother and I were left handed and didn’t know, while my little brother who wanted to color with left hand was truly right handed. Dad was right handed but had never attempted left hand usage. 🙂
    I could send home notes to preschool parents on which hand may be dominant due to their eye usage. I have astounded many people who wondered why they opened jars or threw balls with left hand but were told they were right handed. I wonder which eye you cover (or close) causes the item you focus on with both eyes to move out of sight and disappear from view of a paper towel tube, Marylin?

    • Whew, Robin, you know a lot more about identifying right- or left-handedness than I do. Wow. For decades after the ruler-taps on my left hand to make me use my right hand, except for doing Mirror Writing in protest, I just used my right hand in school and, well, everywhere. But when I retired, I moved the computer mouse to the left side, and I signed up for a mask-making art class and used my left hand as the dominant hand. That seemed to help set things more in balance, but my right hand is still my dominant hand.

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