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The South Paw
A lefthander.

Traditionally, baseball fields were oriented so that the batter, catcher, and umpire faced east to ensure that the setting sun wasn't in their eyes. As a result, when a pitcher is on the mound facing home plate, his left hand pointed south, so lefty pitchers came to be known as southpaws. The term has since entered general usage to indicate left-handed people. There is a perception that southpaws have an advantage, because they are different from right-handed opponents. And it has proven to be Truth in Television in quite a few sports, besides baseball. For example, left-handed sword fighters attacks come from an unusual angle compared to those by right handed opponents, making them more difficult to parry. And left handed—er, footed—soccer players have a likewise advantage over right handed goalkeepers, making them ideal for penalty kicks.

An inversion, Situational Southpaw, exists when the character is not normally left-handed, but is forced to become left-handed, either through forceful education, injury or some apparatus that disables the character's right hand or arm (Arm Cannons are a popular choice).

In real life, very few people are completely hand-dominant, either right- or left; it is common to prefer the use of the non-dominant hand for a few tasks, such as writing or sport. In fiction left-handedness is used as a defining characteristic, and is often treated as a slight positive. For left-handedness as a sign of evil see A Sinister Clue.

Contrast I Am Not Left-Handed. Compare Left-Handed Mirror.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Rurouni Kenshin's Saitou Hajime. Since all Japanese sword techniques are taught strictly right-handed, the switch could be very useful in the context of kenjutsu.
  • Mio Akiyama in K-On! is a left-handed bass musician, and tends to be fascinated by other left hand objects.
  • Bleach:
  • The ability to box left-handed is a rare and (sometimes) major advantage in Hajime No Ippo. The ability to switch between southpaw and a conventional stance at will is even better.
  • FLCL: Haruko and, supposedly, Naota's brother are southpaws (a guitar "player" and baseball player respectively), as pointed out in the DVD commentary. Apparently it has something to do with their coolness, according to the director's opinion.
  • Inverted with Riffael Raffit of Count Cain— his right hand was injured badly enough after his suicide attempt in the hospital that he had to learn to use his left. After it heals, he remains left-handed. When his evil Split Personality regains control over his body, it's right-handed— and when good-Riff starts his Split Personality Takeover, he shoots himself in the right arm to hamstring evil-Riff.

    Comic Books 
  • Hellboy is an inversion. A huge stone hand isn't really useful for doing anything other than punching things, which makes him left-handed out of necessity. Conveniently, Ron Perlman who portrays him in the films is also left-handed.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • Zigzagged with Rocky; he was a left-handed boxer, which led (in his backstory) to opponents refusing to face him out of fear that it would mess with their mechanics. He defeats the world champion by learning to fight righty for most of the fight, and then switch to his natural stance and go for the KO... which of course occurred in maximum Narm mode.
  • Inverted in The Princess Bride: both the Man in Black and Inigo Montoya fight left-handed in their duel as a way of handicapping themselves to give their opponent more of a fight. Eventually they both drop the act and fight better with their right hand.
  • Inverted in the Evil Dead films, in which Ash actually loses his right hand. Of course, Sam Raimi probably decided that Ash should lose his right and not his left hand because Bruce Campbell in Real Life is left-handed.
  • Inverted with Barret in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children: he suffered a gunshot wound that made his right arm unusable. It's likely he was right-handed before this wound. However, he might have simply gotten used to using his left by this point, as his gun-arm is now capable of assuming the form of a usable hand.

    Literature 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Arya Stark. When her dominant hand is revealed to her fencing master, he reacts favorably because fighting left-handed will reverse her stance and movements, which will help confuse her opponents. Of course, her left-handedness might also be A Sinister Clue about her future.
    • Qhorin Halfhand and Jaime Lannister are both inversions; both lost their right hands (Qhorin lost several fingers, Jaime the entire hand) and were forced to learn to fight left-handed. Jaime's struggles to regain his swordsmanship post-amputation take on the flavor of Training from Hell.
  • Downplayed in Harry Turtledove's Tales of the Fox series: the main character is left-handed, and he remarks that it makes it easier to get around enemy shields for a couple of reasons.
  • Inverted in the Emberverse novels: Rudi Mackenzie's right arm is wounded and has to learn to use his left arm as his sword arm. When practicing with youths in the Free Republic of Richland they complain that he has an unfair advantage as a southpaw. His mentor responds "Yah hey, if someone attacks you using different moves, or if they're a leftie you're just going to say you're taking your bat and ball and going home 'cause it ain't fair? Christ, Weiss, I've known you were a dumb little punk for years, but do you have to show it off in front of strangers?"
  • Parodied in The Silmarillion: Maedhros learns to wield his sword with his left hand after a Life or Limb Decision. He becomes even more deadly afterwards (though this is probably for psychological reasons more than anything physical.)
  • Alanna from the Tortall Universe deliberately practices at using her sword left-handed after her right arm is injured during training to become a knight. She keeps up the ambidextrous sword usage even after she's healed, which becomes a Chekhov's Skill in a duel against the Big Bad.
  • Orm, the main character from The Long Ships, is left-handed as a result of rowing a starboard oar on a slave galley for five years. It is commented upon when he duels, that this makes shieldwork more difficult both for him and the right-handed man he's fighting.
  • Margin Play: The protagonist, Amber Eckert, is a lefty, although that fact is never specifically mentioned. There are plenty of clues though, starting in the very first chapter when she carries a rolled-up newspaper in her left hand as she approaches an Angry Guard Dog. It becomes rather important late in the book.
  • Inverted in The Dark Tower: Due to an unfortunate encounter with "lobstrosities" in The Drawing of the Three, Roland Deschain loses three fingers of his right hand. From that point forward he's strictly a left-handed shooter. The remaining members of his ka-tet inherit the use of his right-hand gun.

    Live Action TV 
  • Inverted in Dharma and Greg - Greg's father trained his naturally right-handed son to switch so he'd have an advantage in baseball. When Greg points this can actually be psychologically unhealthy to do to a child, his father seems a little sheepish: "Sorry, son... Won't do it again."

    Video Games 
  • Sol Badguy in Guilty Gear wields his sword left-handed, in Reverse Grip no less. Naturally, he regularly defeats his right-handed rival Ky Kiske whenever they go at it. The same applies to Ragna the Bloodedge, the protagonist if Guilty Gear's Spiritual Successor BlazBlue, right down to the Reverse Grip.
  • Devil May Cry has Nero in the fourth game, who is a lefty. Though, that most likely has more to do with the fact that his right hand is a demonic claw - making this an inversion. The new Dante of the Alternative Continuity is ambidextrous but prefers his left hand. Contrasting classic Dante who was good with both hands but preferred his right.
  • Downplayed with Luke fon Fabre in Tales of the Abyss. It isn't a major plot point, but it does make for a touching moment at the end of the game, where Cool Old Guy/Colonel Badass Jade offers his own left hand for Luke to shake, despite being right-handed himself, out of respect for the personal growth Luke experiences throughout the game. It's also because, in Japan, shaking ones left hand is considered to be a greater sign of trust since that's the one you hold your shield in. Jade is not only recognising Luke's development, but also indicating that he trusts Luke enough to let his guard down in front of him. Luke is "mirrored" from Asch due to being his replica—his hair sweeps in the opposite direction from Asch's, too, so it's only natural that they have opposite dominant hands. Asch is left handed as well, he just trained himself to use his right hand for everything including eating, writing, and sword play because it let him interact with the world better and gives him the advantage of being ambidextrous.
  • Inverted by Dunban in Xenoblade; he lost the use of his right arm. But still being right-handed or no he kicks ass.

    Visual Novels 
  • Haruka of Little Busters! is left-handed. It comes up while they're setting her up for the baseball team and they briefly discuss the way she has a small advantage because of it. It wasn't so advantageous when her Big Screwed-Up Family assumed left-handedness was a sign of weakness and beat her for it, though.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Downplayed with Doug, in Nickelodeon's Doug. It was only occasionally a plot point, such as when his friends couldn't figure out why he was such a poor beet-ball player until they realized they had been trying to make him bat right-handed.
    • It shows up again in another episode where his much-beloved journal goes missing. No one can read it, partly because of his poor handwriting, but also because as a lefty, he drags his hand through everything he writes, leaving it a smudged mess.
  • Parodied with Sponge Bob Square Pants: he is said to be left-handed in several episodes (in Neptune's Spatula he had two left hands) and in several others he says he's ambidextrous, but he can be seen using his left hand more often than not.

    Real Life 
  • For similar reasons to baseball, left-handed cricketers are very useful both with the bat and with the ball: for example, it is generally a good idea for a batting partnership to consist of a right-hander and a left-hander, to put bowlers off their line and tire the fielders when the batsmen cross.
    • Australian bowler Bill O'Reilly (no, not that one) hated bowling to left-handers and said they should be drowned at birth. A leg spinner is essentially an off spinner against a left-handed batsman, as the ball spins towards them instead of away.
  • This advantage is also often attributed (rightly or wrongly) to southpaw players of tennis and other racquet-based games.
  • Averted in golf, though. Since golf is (if you'll excuse the terms) Player Versus Environment rather than Player Versus Player, and the slopes of most golf courses are designed for right-handers, there are relatively few left-handed golfers at the highest level (although Phil Mickelson and Mike Weir are two relatively recent left-handed major winners).
  • Left-handed auto racers benefit greatly from keeping their dominant hand on the wheel while shifting gears. Averted by the more modern Formula One steering-wheel controls: now they use the left hand to shift down and the right hand to shift up.
  • In late antiquity/early medieval warfare, a common trick (the Saxons and maybe the Normans made good use of this) was to fight as though left handed, thus minimizing the enemies' shields and throwing them off.
  • Left-handed bowlers can be seen as having a significant advantage over right-handed bowlers. Since most bowlers bowl right-handed, they're all throwing their ball along roughly the same path as each other, which can throw off the oil pattern significantly. Left-handed bowlers generally have fresh oil, since few people bowl along the left side of the lane, and are thus able to get a much more consistent shot. Having a fresh oil track on the lane is a very good thing, as it allows the ball to travel faster, and with more spin, meaning that the pins can be stuck harder, and allowing for greater control of the curve, which is essential in getting a strike, since the best way to get a strike is to hit the pins behind the first pin, with the ball curving slightly to the center of the cluster, so that the pins hit each other in a mushrooming pattern.
  • One defense used in medieval castles was to make spiral staircases twist clockwise as they went up so that a right handed defender's body was shielded by the center wall. This made left handed troops a valuable resource when trying to storm such castles.
  • This trope also applies to fencing; lefties are MUCH harder to hit if you're used to fighting righties due to the fact that you have to hit the opposite side of their body.
    • Same goes for swordplay; in general you are encouraged to fight from your good side for the obvious advantages in free fights (but also because it is a pain to fight from your weak side - or to re-train your good side when you started learning on the wrong side.). Once you get used to how to attack a right handed opponent on his left (vulnerable) shoulder when your opening position has the sword on your left shoulder it is no big deal anymore. (However most lefties also learn to do at least the basic moves also from the right side. Which is of high advantage when your opponent finally got used to you being a leftie and adjusts his attacks so you can attack him from the right.
    • In academic fencing, normally only one side of the face is a legal hit zone. In the rare cases of left-right matchups, both sides are exposed which greatly increases the risk of getting hit for the right-handed fencer, since he is often not trained against southpaws.
  • There exists a beer company in Colorado named "Left Hand". They produce sinister brews.
  • The United States Marines have found that shooting a bolt action rifle southpaw allows a sniper to shoot slightly faster; the bolt on the M 40 A 3 is on the right, meaning that a right-handed shooter would have to remove his hand from the grip and trigger, work the bolt, and return to firing position. A left-handed shooter can keep his eye on target and his left hand by the trigger and work the bolt with his right hand: as the firing hand does not leave the trigger, the interval between firing is reduced.
  • A large number of players in the NHL learn to shoot left-handed even if they aren't natural lefties. If they find themselves in a situation sprinting or otherwise only holding their stick with one hand, it ends up being in their dominant right giving them more control. More importantly though, is shooting angles. Generally left-handed shooters will play the left wing and righties will play the right wing although it's not a hard rule and sometimes a coach will flip them depending on how he wants a play set up.
    • It's also just a good idea to be able to handle both directions since sticks frequently break in the middle of play. If that happens your option is skate to the bench and grab one from a teammate so you can get back in quickly and it's not always going to face the way yours normally does.
    • Most goalies catch with their left hand and hold their stick in their right but some do the opposite and the opposing team generally has to use a different scoring strategy against them because the types of shot a left-winger might normally take on the blocker side won't be as effective if the goalie has his glove on that side (and vice versa).
  • For soldiers, law enforcement, and other such lines of work, being able to shoot using either hand adds versatility to the positions one can fire from. If exposing the smallest portion of your body to return fire requires switching hands to take better advantage of available cover, then so be it. And if injury or other circumstances make it difficult to favor one's dominant hand, being able to continue fighting while relying on the offhand can come in handy.
  • Left handed arm wrestlers have a much easier time against right handed ones due to the fact that "righties" often neglect their southpaw.
  • Thoroughly averted in the world of power tools. Almost all of them are designed for people favoring the right hand, and using them in the left can be awkward at best, and extremely dangerous at worst. Probably the worst example is lawn edgers or weedeaters, since, by their nature, they fling rocks, dirt clods, and other debris out from them, and, for left handed users, the guard is located on the wrong side.
    • Video game controllers designed for left-handed people are also rare to nonexistent, as the companies that make such things know that lefties make up no more than 10% of the potential market.

You seem a helpful trope page. I hate to leave you. But there's something you don't know... I Am Not Left-Handed.
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alternative title(s): South Paw
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