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I "non mancini"

In honor of Left-Handers Day, I have a query. I was talking to a left-handed (mancina) Italian friend, and she insists that in Italian there is no word for "right-handed." I found a few different words online (the Accademia della Crusca has an article on it: http://www.accademiadellacrusca.it/it/lingua-italiana/consulenza-linguistica/domande-risposte/contrario-mancino-destro-destrimano-destrors ), but are these words that are actually in common use? I'm right-handed, and it's a little time-consuming if I have to say "persona che scrive con la mano destra" to express the fact. : )

Just a bit of random curiosity on my part.

August 13, 2019



Thanks for reminding me that today, or better yesterday since an hour or so, was my day. I'm proudly left-handed, I'm virtually unable to write with my right hand (you described well the result as chicken scratch), so now the assortment is complete. :-)
I have always used the words destrimane and destrorso, until last year I found that article by the Accademia where it says that the correct form of the word is destrimano.
So I looked up the word in Treccani's dictionary, and while the dictionary entry is actually destrimano, the encyclopaedia entry is destrimane (http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/tag/destrimane/).
As the article says, destrimane is probably influenced by other words that end with -mane, like grafomane, cleptomane, etc., whose suffix has a completely different meaning (from Greek mania). So I think destrimane is etymologically wrong, yet being legit.
But while I'm perfectly comfortable speaking of a right-handed female in terms of destrimane (a second-class adjective), I would never use destrimana, which sounds horrible to me, preferring destrorsa.

P.S. - Congratulazioni a Linda per essere ambidestra! :-)


You're very welcome, Happy Left-Handers Day! I've always thought it would be sort of cool to be left-handed, despite the horror stories from left-handed friends. But alas I am fated to be part of the boring 90%. : ) I'm still intrigued by left-handedness, though. I once spent quite a while writing out letters and numbers with a left-handed friend to see how she wrote them differently (I'm a nerd for sure, but it was incredibly interesting).

I'm going to have to propose "destrimano/e" and "destrorso" to my friend and see what she says. I suspect that she sort of enjoys feeling discriminated for her left-handedness, so she might just be playing it up, but she has told me more than once that such a word does not exist, that there were just "mancini" and "persone normali" (her words), haha.

You would think "destrimano" would be invariable, like "madrelingua." I wonder if that's why it sounds odd in the feminine.


The two differences I experience are that my handwriting tends to go slightly upwards towards the right (I can keep this under control, but my signature is markedly slanted in the same direction), and that I obviously smear the ink (this is not a problem if I use a ballpoint pen, but with a felt tip pen the result can be disastrous!).
Decades ago I had started to study Arabic, and I was very happy to write from right to left without smudging my hand and the paper.
I am also interested in how the lefties' brain processes language, which has been investigated in depth only in relatively recent times, after the implementation of non-invasive techniques. The old theories about a simple reversal of the standard lateralization of language centres in left-handed individuals have been largely refuted, but what has been ascertained so far is just the tip of the iceberg. This study of 2012 provides an interesting overview; it is a bit technical, but the abstract is reasonably clear.

You would think "destrimano" would be invariable, like "madrelingua." I wonder if that's why it sounds odd in the feminine.

This could have been possible, but:

If the word were invariable, we should say la destrimano, le destrimano. However, since the article by the Accademia mentions destrimani, the word has at least a singular and a plural form.

If the word was gender-invariable, we should say il/la destrimano, i/le destrimani, which is consistent with the pluralization of other adjective+noun compounds (e.g. la nobildonna/le nobildonne); but since mano is a feminine noun with a non-standard masculine '-o' (singular) and '-i' (plural) inflections, and destrimano should refer to either gender, there is no extant pattern that fits this word, which is therefore unique.

If the word was fully inflectable, we should say la destrimana, le destrimane; but the former sounds odd because of -mana (the only other adjective I can think of referring to hands, bimane, takes second-class inflections), while the plural would overlap the alternative form il destrimane, possibly causing confusion: sono destrimane could mean "I (masculine) am right-handed" or "they (feminine) are right-handed".


There are lots of little things with handwriting, like crossing Ts and dotting Is going in the opposite way (to the left versus the right), turning the pen counterclockwise instead of clockwise for circular letters, etc. Those are pretty typical. This particular friend also had several letters and numbers that she started in weird places (the bottom instead of the top or vice versa), but I'm not sure if that was entirely a left-handed thing or just her. Like, I remember she started her 3s from the bottom, which makes sense since then you're moving the pen counterclockwise.


crossing Ts and dotting Is going in the opposite way (to the left versus the right), turning the pen counterclockwise instead of clockwise for circular letters, etc.

I had to try these straight away!
I finish the 'T' by crossing the vertical line from left to right.
I write all round letters ('O', 'o', 'a') and 'U' moving anticlockwise. Actually, I had never realised that right-handed people go the other way round!
Instead, I don't think there is any difference with most numbers, which I write moving from top to bottom, but:
- my '0' moves anticlockwise;
- my '4' goes (1) diagonal stroke (2) horizontal stroke (3) vertical stroke, with no space between the top part of the first and third strokes;
- my '7' is crossed in the centre by a left-to-right stroke;
- my '8' starts like an 'S', and then I finish it moving upwards.


Now I'm doubting myself with the Os, because I do them counterclockwise. Maybe it's the opposite that some lefties do (clockwise instead of counterclockwise).

My dad is left-handed and also writes the numbers all the normal way, except for doing the horizontal strokes from right to left.

You learn all kinds of things about your writing when you sit down and compare it to someone else's. I for example apparently write my 5s like no one else (starting from the very bottom). Left-handed, right-handed, pretty much everyone else starts them from the top (either from the top right point in one stroke or from the top left down, then one stroke across).

Another lefty fun fact: in sign language, left-handed people do everything basically mirrored to what right-handed people do. I noticed a left-handed friend was doing this (without ever being taught such) when someone was teaching us a couple of signs, and we had to look it up to see whether she was saying everything backwards or not. : )


I am not left-handed for all functions and activities. I do write and draw with my left hand, I use the PC mouse with the same hand, I kick a football with my left foot, but I perform "power" actions with my right hand/arm, I hold a tennis racket with my right hand, I also hold the fork with this hand, and I aim with my right eye.
So I'm a lefty for language and language-related functions, but for many others I am not.
I wonder which hand/arm I would use for sign language (which I do not know), but I guess that learning from another person would almost certainly induce me to use the same side as my teacher.


My dad's the same way. I think he does most sports-related things with his right.

The funny thing with the sign language was that my friend did it completely unconsciously of the fact - she didn't even realize she was using a different hand until I pointed it out. She just naturally switched to her dominant hand for certain things, even when both hands were involved.


What I understand is that left-handedness is not just a standard condition, but rather a feature that can affect a variable number of functions, producing a range of patterns. Among functions, writing is one of the most important ones (anybody is a lefty because he/she writes with the left hand, even if the right hand is used for other purposes), and likely one of the most frequent ones too, 10+% of a general population, unless particular conditions occur (e.g. in several cultures left-handedness is not welcome, for different reasons, so schoolchildren are forced to use the right hand).
But if I had to tell which is my dominant side, I would be in doubt because I do more things with my right hand than with my left.
Each function seems to have its own laterality, but I don't know whether functions are 'clustered' in some way (this would considerably restrict the number of patterns).


Society is really geared towards righthanded people. It must be quite difficult for lefthanded people unless they can get specially adapted equipment like scissors, tin openers etc. What is the main thing that lefthanded people struggle to obtain?


I'm right-handed, but I deeply respect left-handed people. I play piano and I have reasons to think that it's better to be a left-handed pianist (left hand often plays the most important part). Indeed, one of the greatest pianists of all time, Glen Gould, was left-handed.
So I offer congratulations and my best wishes to all the left-handed people in the world. Have a happy day!

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