In praise of... the leftie vein of love

It's Left-Handers Day today, a relatively low-key event, halfway through the summer holidays, dedicated to about 10% of the population. And yes, that includes me: I'm a sinister leftie, in a predominantly dexterous right-handed world; in fact, according to a quick test I've just taken, I'm 84% left-handed. Of course, I'd have scored higher if I hadn't successfully adapted to 'normal' scissors, or continued to hold a phone against my right ear (a hangover from the days of dialling with my left hand), or if they'd asked about potato peelers, mobile keypads or knitting... but even so, 84% is still highly leftie.

Like many lefties I grew up with the right-handed way being presented as normal, and being written off by exasperated relatives when I couldn't learn how to hold a crochet hook or carve meat 'correctly'. But at least from early childhood I successfully imbibed the Catholic tradition of using my right hand for making the Sign of the Cross! I realise, of course, that such traditions are rooted in a deeply ingrained suspicion of the sinister or gauche side, which led me to wonder, this morning, if there is any practice or tradition, anything at all, which favours the left hand...

And within seconds the answer came... in the UK, Italy and in many other countries, wedding and engagement rings - and religious profession rings like mine - are worn on the left hand. But why? A quick bit of googling found a few theories. The practical theory suggests that rings are less likely to get scratched or grimy if worn on the less dominant, more 'idle' hand; the religious one that Anglicans opted for a different hand to the one favoured by Catholics (though that doesn't account for other countries). But each article I read located the practice's origins in ancient Rome, and the belief that the third finger of the left hand held the vena amoris - the vein of love. This, the Romans believed, was a vein which went directly to the heart, and so this finger was the perfect place for a symbol of eternal, faithful love and commitment.

Modern anatomical knowledge notwithstanding, this is quite satisfying. Right handers get machinery and implements, computer mice, fountain pens and lecture chairs; lefties have a vein of love. And as this is our dominant hand, this vein must get almost constantly flexed and exercised... hopefully, in a way which is full of tender and steadfast love... in a way which constantly tugs at our hearts, with a love which is not just for one person, but as wide and profligate as possible.

Happy Left Handers Day, especially to all the other sinisters out there!