steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Crying over Spilt Ink

I enjoyed Anne Rooney's piece at the Awfully Big Blog Adventure yesterday, on living a 1960s day (a British child's one, anyway). It all sounds very familiar - except for the ink-dip pens.

Our desks still had ink wells, but I never got to use them, to my regret - they looked fun. We had fountain pens instead, rather primitive ones that lived up to their name by leaking from many an unexpected orifice. Being left-handed increased the complication, not only because I had to get special nibs but because of the danger of smudging the wet ink with my following hand. Blotting paper was my friend, but often alas a false one.

For decades I assumed that it was my early ink-smudging experiences that caused me, like many lefties (though far less than some), to assume the characteristic "hook" position for writing, which involves looping one's hand up in a wide evasive manoeuvre and surprising the paper from behind. However, I've noticed that almost all my left-handed students continue to write this way (and one or two righties, too), even though they're unlikely to have been traumatised by fountain pens at an impressionable age. So perhaps there's another explanation?

Now I need a Wellcome Trust grant so that I can travel the world watching left-handed children writing in Arabic, Hebrew and Chinese, and produce a learned report about it all. If only boustrophedon were still in common use I could study that too! (I wonder why it isn't?)
Tags: language, real life
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