Writing Right…or Left

There’s a woman I work with who holds her pen straight up and down when she writes. If she were writing with a calligraphy brush, that would be the correct position, but it just looks weird when she’s using a pen, and even weirder when she’s writing in English because the stroke order is different from what I was taught. For example, most Japanese cross the “t” before they make the down stroke, which is correct if you’re writing kanji, but I was taught that is WRONG.

Apparently, American schools don’t teach stroke order anymore; such training inhibits the child’s innate creativity or some such thing. Really, if you think about it, what does stroke order matter as long as you, and other people, can read what you write? Proper stroke order doesn’t always help with that anyway.

I had to go to a meeting on Sunday, the only time both of us were available, and it was strange but cool to be there then. The office is the size of a football field, with the yard lines being row after row of desks stretching into the distance. Only the bank of lights over this guy’s section was turned on. The rest of the usually brightly lit and rather loud room was murky and silent.

We sat at a table by the windows and when he wrote something down, I noticed that he was a lefty. Nothing unusual there, but then he put the pen down, picked it up again with his right hand, and wrote down something else, in English, complete with the odd stroke order.

I sputtered, “You…but…you, you…j-just…what?” I can be so eloquent.

I had heard of that, of course, but had never seen it before. He looked up innocently and said something like, “Is that so strange?”Perhaps Japan, with all its emphasis on conformity, had made him feel like an oddball.

So I said, “Well, yes, but only in a very cool way.” Then I taught him the word ambidextrous, which he thought was a pretty cool word.

And I said, “It is cool. Just like you.”

Up, down, side to side, right hand, left hand, both hands. I guess it’s all a matter of whatever gets the job done.


3 thoughts on “Writing Right…or Left”

  1. My brother is left-handed. He is a pure lefty and I am a mix (probably mixed up is the reality). Some years ago he began to work with a famous doctor. The doctor usually made his students memorize a textbook to show their dedication and commitment to working with him. He realized that there would not be enough time, he was 84, so he demanded that my brother learn to write Classical Chinese with his right hand. Now, when he writes Chinese, he uses his right hand, and for English he goes back to his left. It is really odd to see.

  2. It is so interesting and I have taken very keen notice of how much precision and effort the Japanese as a whole, seem to give to every action. They don’t just serve dinner, they create art then serve it. They don’t just use chopsticks, they pick them up and put them in the correct position in a specific manner. I love how detail oriented, respectful and efficient this culture is.

    1. You’re so right. I just returned from a business trip that started out as a disaster but Japanese efficiency soon took over and all was well. More about that on the blog soon. And thanks for the thoughtful comment.

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