Ask Mr Brain...all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 May, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 May, 1999, 12:00am

Why are some people left-handed? Over the years there have been dozens of hypotheses as to what determines 'handedness', however it remains a puzzle. A popular hypothesis was that since the right and left sides of the body are controlled by the opposite hemispheres of the brain, people whose right hemisphere is larger than the left would be left-handed.

But studies show the area of the brain which controls speech and muscular co-ordination is almost always better developed in the left hemisphere, even in people who are left-handed.

Archaeological evidence has shown that the majority of mankind has been left-handed for more than a million years. That said, Asians are less likely to be left-handed than whites or blacks (9.3 per cent against 11 per cent) and men are more likely to be left-handed than women.

There is evidence which suggests handedness is hereditary, however it is not clear whether it is due to genetics or parents teaching their children to be right- or left-handed.

Studies have claimed to prove a link between being left-handed and being artistic - think of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Picasso. Musical left-handers include Beethoven and two of the Beatles - Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

Other studies have claimed to find links between being left-handed and being gifted. Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton are just two of the left-handers who have contributed to science.

Famous actors who are left- handed include Charlie Chaplin, Tom Cruise, Robert DeNiro, Bruce Willis and his former spouse, Demi Moore.

In recent years, the United States has had a run of left-handed presi dents - Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton.

When I accidentally hurt myself, the first word out of my mouth is usually 'Ouch!' Do you know the word's origin? Interjections are instinctive utterances that express a particular emotion. As such, they are the most primitive type of sentence.

'Ouch' is the instinctive vocal response to pain, and even by itself tells the hearer that the speaker is experiencing that sensation. Other interjections express other feelings, such as 'oh' for surprise, 'ugh' for disgust and 'ah' for pleasure.

Some interjections can convey a number of meanings, depending on the pitch or length given the word by the speaker. For example 'oh' can express surprise, enlightenment or scepticism. Other interjections, such as 'ouch' or 'ugh', retain a fairly constant value.

Of course, interjections are conventionalised according to the sound patterns of the language in which they develop. The spelling of an interjection is originally designed to render its sound but, in turn, a secondary pronunciation may be derived from the spelling assigned to the exclamation.

Probably the first exclamations of pain were not exactly the same sounds as those represented in English by the spelling 'ouch', but instead something similar which developed into that written form.