Sunday, October 7, 2012

When "g" Inadvertently Became a "ɋ"


     She couldn't have been more than six years old at the time, given the conspicuous absence of both bottom incisors, her school uniform itchy and tight about her waist as she sat at her desk, folding a piece of paper over and over on itself, marveling at how it kept getting smaller, wondering if folding it enough times would eventually make it disappear. Defiantly shoved beneath her Big Chief tablet, barely obscuring her assignment's tell-tale red star sticker, lay the ruins of a job almost well done. For a left-handed girl who still wrote her name backwards, penciling row after row of lower case "g’s" without besmirching the sheet of paper had proved an impossible challenge, especially given the fact that Sister Mary Nicholas did not permit the use of erasers without prior special dispensation.
     Only moments before, she'd set about the task of making “g’s,” concentrating intently, determined that today's effort in penmanship would be rewarded with a gold star, not the usual blue or green one. She glanced over longingly at Perfect-Sharon-Carmichael's desk. The tip of Sharon's tongue was already deliberately affixed to the corner of her mouth in typical studious fashion, marching her “g’s” almost mockingly across the page, each letter as crisp and pristine as the typeset in their "Fun with Phonics" workbooks. Pretty, bright, and obedient--the sugar and spice embodiment of a teacher's pet--Sharon was her unsuspecting nemesis. From her stylishly coiffed glossy brown hair to her meticulously polished saddle shoes, Sharon had all the right stuff, including right-handedness. Unfazed by the dreaded yellow subtraction flash cards, Sharon would enthusiastically raise her right hand, righteously illuminating the rest of the class with all the right-minded answers. It just didn't make sense that she was the one who got to use an eraser.
     Two rows of “g’s” down, three more to go. She'd been careful to elevate the sooty pinky-side of her hooked left hand ever so slightly to keep it from dragging and smudging the paper, taking her time to scribe what was certain to be the most exquisite array of “g’s” Sister Mary Nicholas had ever seen. Distracted by the sudden violent scrubbing of Sharon's coveted eraser, her next “g” inadvertently became a "ɋ." Just as she was completing the "o" part of a particularly troublesome “g,” her adversary's convulsive fit of erasure trembled her desktop, peppering it with pink shrapnel, the detritus of which she was tempted to scavenge and roll surreptitiously into a tiny eraser of her own, a delightfully naughty fantasy indeed. Captivated by this wildly provocative thought, she carelessly transposed the "j" which was supposed to turn her "ointo a “g.” Now, she was stuck with “ɋ.”
     Deprived of eraser privileges, and impoverished by her own awkward chirality, she deftly resorted to other means of correcting her sinister slipup. Surely Sister Mary Nicholas, who was thickly bespectacled and had eyes in the back of her drab grey veil, wouldn't notice the little bit of saliva she'd used to coax the “ɋ” into an "α" and finally, into a magnificent “g,” as flawless and unadulterated as one of Sharon's scuff-free shoes...


The Subtle Beauty of Chirality: A Related Post



18 comments:

  1. Maybe I was left-handed and didn't know it. In first grade my printing with my right hand was terrible and almost unreadable. Then again, on the few occasions when I tried to print with my left hand it was even worse, so probably not.

    As to little miss perfect, Sharon, don't you just love it when those people screw up? That sort of thing gives me a warm glow.

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    1. It's funny, Joel, because I still remember exactly what Sharon looked like and how she always knew the answers to the math flash cards.

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  2. Kris, I was forced to write right-handed, but it came easily, as I'm naturally ambidextrous. My left arm is the stronger, I can lift more weight on that side, but my right has better small motor skills. I was always very proud of being a switch hitter in baseball, and able to clout a home run from either side.

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    1. I play most sports right-handed, but can only turn a cartwheel left-handed. I would love to be able to write with my right hand, as it would come in very handy in the OR (most anesthesia work stations are set up for right-handed people)

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  3. During our yard sale, my boyfriend sold a lefty baseball mitt to a guy who couldn't find one for his son. In the year 2012, how is that possible?

    My sister is ambidexterous, also. When she was little, she called it "expidanderous."

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    1. I would think it'd be relatively easy to find a lefty mitt nowadays, but apparently not! I love your sister's neologism! Reminds me of when my boys were trying to say something was contaminated..came out "taminized."

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  4. For some reason, I'm always amazed when I see how a left handed person writes, the way they hold the pen to write etc looks real odd to me.
    Your post reminded me of when I was learning my a,b.c in handwriting class at school. Still can't write properly today, :)

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    1. Yes, it does look weird. I've noticed that some lefties don't have that extreme upside-down style, but it's the only way that works for me. Even after all that hard work making "g's", my handwriting is STILL horrendous!

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  5. Great post Kris.

    Personally, my 3 children can use both hands to do anything universally. They were not "guided" into having dominance frome one side to the other. Just happened thru personal development. My oldest daughter and my son write left handed because of the neatness it creates. I am the same way, I like to write with my left, but go back and forth, depends on where I pick up the pen. I don't think there should be a forced "norm".

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    1. I agree about not having a forced norm; kids should write however it's most comfortable. I'm trying to experiment with writing right-handed, but it's not going too well. It does not surprise me that you're predominantly lefty-ambidextrous, IM. I'm sure that was useful during your Air Force career.

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  6. I remember our Kindergarten teacher forcing a fellow leftie to write 'right' - and I would love to know why I didn't cave to the pressure! I would love to go back and cheer that little girl on for retaining her 'leftedness'!! Well I remember the smudges along my palm from dragging across the rows of printing... Very charmingly written, Kris!

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    1. Thanks, Melody! Always good to hear from another smudger. That erasable ink never worked too well for me, even in a left-handed spiral bound notebook.

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  7. My husband is left-handed. He has told me stories about how hard it was to try to adapt. He said it was especially hard to cut with scissors. He is now ambidextrous through necessity. Great article!

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    1. Thanks, Kristina! Do you guys have left-handed scissors for him?

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  8. Wonderfully written piece, Kris, and very interesting that you are left-handed. One of my younger brothers is left-handed and one sister is ambidextrous. Nuns really frowned on writing with your left hand, they would not tolerate it. The part about Perfect Sharon gave me a good laugh because I knew a Perfect Sharon in Catholic school too, only her name was Karen...Perfect Karen, the teacher’s pet! Always first in the class in everything. Pretty, smart and obedient with perfect grades, perfect hair, and the best and cutest clothes! She knew all the answers to the flash cards too, which always amazed me because I was waiting for her to mess up just once...LOL! Btw, I’ve read that left-handed people are especially creative and that certainly fits you! :)

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    1. Madilyn, I knew you'd be able to intimately relate to this post. Wonder what Perfect Sharon and Karen are doing nowadays? :-)

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  9. Isn't it odd the things we preserve from our childhood memories?? I have a similar one sitting in our third grade class practicing a cursive writing assignment. This girl turned to me and said "you know, one day we will be able to do this without looking down at all, could you imagine?" Weird. Great piece as always!

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    1. Emily, it certainly is. I'm sure my memories have been embellished with the mists of time and hindsight.

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