May 03, 1997
RAY: Gee. OK, it's time for the puzzler.
RAY: I was reading something the other day where I discovered that Leonardo da Vinci was left-handed but wrote backwards. He wrote from the right side of the page to the left side of the page and he didn't write the way you would write, he wrote what was called mirror writing. He actually wrote backwards so you would need a mirror to read this. And I said, huh, that's kind of interesting. I wonder why he did that? And I remember when we were kids, well, no when I was a kid. When you were a kid in school they were still pressing reeds into clay tablets to write. Cuneiform writing. Remember that?
TOM: Stones and hammers.
RAY: But when I was a kid in school, every kid that was left-handed was forced -- those were the days when you could hit kids. You can't hit kids any more, but every kid that was left-handed was forced to write right-handed almost without exception.
RAY: It's hardly ever done now.
RAY: Back then there was a very good reason for it.
TOM: A practical reason, not a psychological one.
RAY: Not a psychological one. There was a practical reason for it, which, for the most part, does not exist today. What was that reason?
TOM: Hmmm...yeah. Well, back when we were children we wrote with fountain pens, which had ink. Actually we wrote with the ink wells -- we had ink wells on our desks and if you dipped the pen in the ink well and you write from left to right you do not smudge the ink as you go along because you are leaving the written words behind you. But if you are a lefty and you do that -- as you drag your hand across the paper you are messing and smudging everything. So they hit the kids with big sticks...
RAY: That's not why though.
TOM: That's not why they hit the kids?
RAY: No. I mentioned this to my daughter who is a lefty and she said "well, it still happens."
TOM: Even with ball point -- yes that's true.
RAY: "When I write," she said, "left to right, left handed, I still smudge the paper -- even with pencils." So there you go.
TOM: Well you are just going to have to start beating it out of her.
RAY: I think so. I'll start tomorrow.
TOM: Start tomorrow.
RAY: Hey who's our winner?TOM: The winner! David B. Adolfus from Burlington, Vermont.