By Wendy Davies
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Extra resources for Small Worlds: The Village Community in Early Medieval Brittany
In Central America, the ancient Mayan and Aztec ritual that served the same blessing, protection, or benediction functions as the sign of the cross in Christian worship involved touching the middle finger of the right hand (of course) to soil and then to the lips. A ritual in Islam involves washing before prayer and before touching the sacred text, the Koran. Among fundamentalist Moslems, the washing is done three times. First the right hand and arm are washed, up to the elbow, and then the left hand and forearm.
Eastern European languages continue the tradition of denigrating left-handers. In Russian, to be called a left-hander (levja) is a term of insult. ” Similarly, in Romany (the language of the Gypsies) we find bongo, also the term used to describe a crooked card game, a fixed horse race, or a wicked and dishonest person. If a word meaning continues to endure, that fact suggests that the idea or usage has been generally accepted by the speakers of the language as correct and useful. Thus our language says that we feel that the left-handers are not a very nice group of people and that they are definitely “wrong” in many ways.
The other side of the coin is that the left-hander often considers himself or herself to be socially isolated, not part of a group that they can turn to for support. Numbers alone might be enough to support a negative stereotype of left-handers, but other factors also play a role. First is the effect of labelling on our stereotypes of left-handers. We often learn our stereotypes and prejudices from our parents, friends, and society in general. Such learning is supported or initiated by labels. If I hear the phrase “Arab terrorists” frequently enough, after a while any mention of “Arab” makes me think “terrorist,” with all the negative connotations of the label.
Small Worlds: The Village Community in Early Medieval Brittany by Wendy Davies