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the girl with violets in her lap [userpic]

August 12th, 2010 (06:00 pm)

So, as noted, I've been doing "mirror writing" for years. I picked it up from a friend in high school who had learned to write her name and a few other phrases in mirror writing. I thought it was totally cool, and I picked it up easily. I loved it because it meant I could write (non-class-related) notes in class, and if the teacher caught me and tried to read the note aloud, s/he would get stuck standing in front of the whole class, staring foolishly at a sheet they couldn't read. I think one of my teachers thought I knew Cyrillic.

So it was fun, and I was sort of proud of the fact that I knew how to do it, but I never figured the fact that I could do it was really anything special. It seemed easy enough to pick up -- I couldn't write it in fluently the first time I tried, but I don't think it took me any longer than a few days or so to write in it as well as I do now.* I figured the only reason most people couldn't do it was that they'd never bothered to learn.

Except just now I came across a website about it, and, man, either the research studies that have been done about this are totally unreliable or else this mirror writing thing is just one more piece of proof that my brain is bonkers. There seems to be some consensus that an ability to mirror-write is actually genetic, with one site hypothesizing that it is the "phenotypic expression of an X-linked dominant gene," which... okay! Sure. More interesting, although not all that much more comprehensible, is the part where it says "It is hypothesised that mirror writers may comprise a very small group of people who not only have bilateral language centres but also have an interconnecting pathway between these centres via the corpus callosum." Man, I wish I knew what that meant. I did, however, grok the part where it said mirror-writing ability is linked to a family history of dyslexia (my dad's dyslexic), to synesthesia, and to a variety of autistic-spectrum disorders, including Rett's Syndrome. (Autistic spectrum REPRESENT, yo! NLD WHAT)

I've known for a long time that my brain is trippy as hell, of course. The NLD label is very useful but it doesn't actually fit me 100% (I'm quite good at reading people's emotions), and the various other issues I have -- bipolar, SID, seizure disorder, sleep disorder, etc. -- all seem to be linked together in some weird way and yet no one's come up with one diagnosis to cover them yet. And now here's one more thing. Mirror writing! The awesome thing about this one is that I actually like it.

Anyway, so there is all of that, and I was very curious/intrigued when I read all the material suggesting that mirror writing was an unusual skill, but I'm still not sure I believe it. It was pretty heavy on the hypotheses, and a few of the statistics they offered were just bogus (they ran an ad in a 65,000-circulation paper asking people who could read the following block of mirror writing text in under a minute to participate in a study; of those who did the study, ten could do mirror writing; they therefore divided 65,000 by ten and decided 1 in 6500 people can mirror-write. WTF, WORST STATISTICAL ANALYSIS EVER). I'm guessing it's a *hell* of a lot more common than that. But can everybody, or virtually everybody, learn to do it with ease, like I originally assumed? I would like to know.

Have you ever tried mirror writing before?

Yes, and I can do it fluently
Yes, and I can do it haltingly
Yes, and I can write a few words or something
Yes, and I can do print but not cursive
Yes, and I couldn't do it
Only when I needed to write HELP! I'M TRAPPED IN THE BLACKBOARD! or something

If you can do mirror-writing, how long did it take you to learn?

I didn't have to learn -- as a kid I began writing in reverse naturally and had to learn to write straight
I had no trouble with it the first time I tried
It took me a little practicing, but not much
A long time
I had to/have to work at it and concentrate still

Okay, so say you're not a mirror-writer. And also say you're bored at work or something. Go try to write some stuff in mirror writing. (Sometimes it's easier with the left hand, whether you're righty or lefty.) How'd it go?

I could probably learn
Total mindfuck, sorry
I would like to help you with this very much except for the part where I don't care

Do you think those poor people trapped in the blackboard ever got out?

Yeah, don't worry, I drew them a door
No, they'll pound forever on the sheets of chalkboard; they're the men who'll never return

What about the ones trapped in the mirror-steam, though? I worry about them too.

Aw. I'm sorry to inform you that they get eaten by Bloody Mary
I'm sorry to inform you that they ARE Bloody Mary
Oh God, what the hell are we even talking about anymore?
You know, maybe if we just wrote Bloody Mary a nice note in mirror writing saying we didn't have her kid, she'd leave us all alone. Ever think of that?
Aren't there supposed to be wombats here? Aren't wombats supposed to rescue all these terrible polls by plunking down at the end of them and forcing them to stop?
I want to see Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch in A Little Night Music!
I want to see Elaine Stritch play Bloody Mary in a musical about bathroom mirrors!



*And yes, some of my mirror letters are weirdly shaped or malformed. My straight handwriting is sort of idiosyncratic and not at all Palmer standard, which makes things a little weird sometimes.


Posted by: Erin (givesmevoice)
Posted at: August 12th, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)
Patti Vogue

pls to be writing a musical about Bloody Mary starring Stritchy.


PS: you can make copies of stuff in mirror-writing on some copy machines. trufax.

Posted by: Doc Manhattan (docmanhattan)
Posted at: August 12th, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)

I can mirror-write much better with my left (non-dominant) hand. If I really concentrate, I can write the same thing mirrored with both hands. It's halting, but so is my handwriting. Probably some dyslexia in the woodpile, btw.

Posted by: No Xtink is Xtink. (goingferal)
Posted at: August 12th, 2010 10:59 pm (UTC)
pirate bunny

I could read some but not all of the mirror writing, don't seem to be able to do it. But after trying to read the mirror writing, now normal writing is all effed up looking to me and I'm having trouble telling whether the words are normal or mirrored.


Posted by: ems (ems)
Posted at: August 12th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)

I've just realised I answered the poll assuming it was okay that I mirror-wrote with my left hand. I can do it with my right hand but not nearly as fast as with my left.

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: August 12th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)

It would probably take me some practice to learn to read it, but I just tried writing it for the first time, and it WAS easy. With my left hand, anyway. With my right, I could do it - it wasn't an effort to keep track of letter shapes or anything - but I've been full-time lefty for the last couple weeks, and haven't held a pen in my right hand in all that time, and seem to have forgotten how a little. I'm taking that as evidence that I never really was right handed to begin with, if it's that easy to just forget twenty years of training and practice.

Posted by: Morgan (banshea)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 07:58 am (UTC)

Honestly, I switch hands all the time. Every new activity, I have to figure out which hand is better for it (I write and eat with my left hand, I use scissors with my right, everything else is a crap shoot). I discovered that I was capable of fencing equally well with my left or right hands, but that I was strongly left-footed so I had to be a lefty because of that. I've cut myself a few times because I forgot which hand to hold the knife in -- just because one hand seems like the right choice on an instinctive level doesn't mean I've practiced using it in this activity. Also, the bit that I find particularly strange is that whenever I mime writing, I use my non-writing hand to hold the "pen".

My experience is that handedness is actually a lot like sexuality. You can be all the way one way, or all the way the other, but there's also a lot of shades in between. My experience is also that nurture plays a much bigger role than nature. Our culture assumes that "handedness" is a valid concept and teaches us to be either a lefty or a righty. This gets taught at a young enough age, and gets reinforced so often by daily tool use, that it never even occurs to most people to question the concept.

Oh god, I find myself wanting to write an essay on the parallels between handedness and sexuality/gender, but it's 1am here and I have an early morning. I'll just shorten the whole thing down to the fact that I find it hilarious that I am both mostly ambidextrous and mostly bisexual.

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)

I was raised righty, and some things I still do right handed, but EVERYTHING that I wasn't specifically taught to do with my right hand, I do with my left. It is a lot like sexuality and gender, too - both my handedness and my gender identity are flexible, but leaning towards the opposite of what I was raised to be.

I did realize when my mother was first teaching me to write that something was wrong, but apparently I couldn't put it into words well enough to convey it to her, because she never got that I wasn't right handed. Eventually I just started taking her word for it. I started teaching myself to write lefty in high school - my best friend was a lefty, I copied the way she held the pen - and, as I said, stopped writing righty entirely last week.

(I can read upside down easily, since a few people have commented on that ability. Reading mirror writing takes work, but upside down, piece of cake.)

Posted by: Nathaniel Wolfthorn (ganimede)
Posted at: August 14th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)

I was raised right-handed but I realised a few years ago that I do pretty much everything else with my left. Certainly my left is the stronger hand for opening bottles and stuff! Occasionally when I'm writing, I feel like having the pen in my right hand is wrong and I often get confused with which hand my knife and fork should be in. I can write reasonably well with my left hand, it just looks rather childish but that's probably due to lack of use.

I'm intrigued that you've switched from using your right to write with. Was this something that you worked up to?

(Amusingly, I can also read upside down easily, whether it's handwritten or print.)

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: August 14th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I had to work up to it - I started teaching myself to write lefty when I was fifteen, and was completely awful at it at first. I could do it, it didn't feel wrong or anything, but it was painfully slow and looked messy. Of course, I've always had trouble keeping my handwriting neat - I spent years getting yelled at for my messy writing and basically forced myself to learn to do better with my right hand - but with my left, it was sort of illegible the first couple times I've tried. It's taken ten years of practice, on and off, to get to the point where I'm more comfortable writing lefty than righty - but now that I've gotten there, writing with my right hand feels WEIRD, and is SO MUCH sloppier than lefty. I may still be a little slow writing with my left hand, but it doesn't take any effort at all to make it look neat!

But yeah, through high school and college until I realized I was probably a lefty, I'd often catch myself eating with the wrong hand - sometimes I wouldn't even notice until someone pointed it out to me. And when I was learning to drive, it was a bit problematic that I got left and right mixed up! I don't still - now that I've stopped associating "right hand" and "dominant hand" in my mind, it's much easier to remember which is which.

Posted by: Nathaniel Wolfthorn (ganimede)
Posted at: August 18th, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)

I got told off a lot for messy writing when I was young too. I remember when we were old enough to move onto using pens rather than pencils, I got told several times to return to using a pencil as my writing with a pen was unacceptable. Of course, it didn't help that we were using fountain pens but even so, I had a lot of trouble writing neatly. It's funny because these days I often get complimented on my neat writing but that's because I really have to work at making it neat. If I'm in a hurry or just writing something for myself, it's all over the place.

I've also had problems getting left and right mixed up. It can be really embarrassing! I didn't link it to issues with being right or left handed though. Hmm, that's given me a lot to think about.

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: August 18th, 2010 10:37 am (UTC)

Yeah, after years of effort and lectures, I managed to develop really good handwriting with my right hand. It was never easy, but it looked nice. (Of course, now that I've put that much effort into learning how the letters are supposed to be formed, it looks just as nice with my left hand - and IS easy.)

I could never get the hang of fountain pens, though. We did all our official schoolwork writing in ballpoint, but they let us use fountain pens for fun sometimes, and I always ended up with more ink on my hands then on the paper.

Posted by: Underwear Ninja (chavvah)
Posted at: August 12th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)

I started mirror-writing after I read a book about Leonardo da Vinci, who also used to do it. I always assumed it was a lefty thing--I've always been able to read upside down, backwards, etc.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 03:42 am (UTC)

Is reading upside down unusual, then, too? I've been doing that since kindergarten, when the teacher had me read picture books to the other kids while she went on cigarette breaks. I made a point of holding the book up so they could see the pictures, which meant reading upside-down.

The really odd thing about all of this is that I'm a righty.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 03:47 am (UTC)

Have I told you my (lefty) grandmother can only write upside-down, though? The nuns who taught at her elementary school forced everyone to write righty, but somehow Gram just a. got crafty about hiding which hand she was using, and b. wound up writing upside-down. We always figured the two thiings were related and the attempt to force her to change her dominant hand had garbled something in her brain. But now I'm wondering if it may have been more natural than that.

Posted by: Morgan (banshea)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 07:41 am (UTC)

Okay, I'm a lefty and I write sideways. It's something that I picked up because it makes me less likely to smudge pencil lines all over my hands. Upside-down writing or sideways writing is a common lefty thing, largely for that reason. Also because right-handed people usually don't know what to do about us -- they don't know how to teach us to use our hands at all -- so lefties tend to develop idiosyncratic methods of getting things done.

Also: my mother is a lefty, and is able to write straight with one hand and in mirror-writing with the other at the same time, but she can only do the mirror-writing if she's doing exactly the opposite movements with her other hand. She thought this was totally normal until someone noticed and flipped out.

Additionally interesting information: Mom recently heard about synesthesia and thought it was awesome and bizarre. I got to point out to her that, actually, I've been known to do some of that, to a very limited degree. I did it mostly when I was little. When I realized that nobody cared about or understood my system of color-coding, I think I actively tried to stop it. I don't think it's to the point of being able to say "I have synesthesia", but it is enough that when I first heard about synesthesia I was confused that not everybody knows that the months are different colors.

Posted by: Kare Bear (luvs_chicago)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 12:08 am (UTC)

(Full disclosure: I remember none of this, it's all what I've been told by my parents.)

Apparently, when I was a kid, I mirror wrote before I ever learned to write normally. My teachers were seriously concerned about it and thought I was dyslexic, and they had to work a lot with me to get me to write correctly. I remember hearing that if I had been born centuries earlier, I would've been killed because people would have thought I was a witch or demon possessed. *shrugs* I can still do it, though not as easily as I once could (which is why I checked that I can mirror write both fluently and haltingly), but I can read it very easily.

Posted by: Kare Bear (luvs_chicago)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 12:09 am (UTC)

Oh, and I can also read & write upside down.

Posted by: Obsessively opposed to the typical since 1987 (baroque_n_roll)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC)

It is hypothesised that mirror writers may comprise a very small group of people who not only have bilateral language centres but also have an interconnecting pathway between these centres via the corpus callosum.

In English: "People who can mirror-write have language centers in both sides of their brains, which is weird enough, but the two centers are connected in the middle, which is AMAZEBALLS."

...OK, that may have been a looser translation than what you were looking for.

I've been doing mirror-writing off and on for a while. I don't remember when I started. I still have to concentrate to make sure I don't reverse (or, well, un-reverse) letters. Lowercase "e" seems to be especially hard. It was a little easier when I tried it with my left hand, but I could barely read the results. My left hand is not smart :(

Posted by: wanderer (aerinha)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 02:02 am (UTC)
sagittarius two

AWESOME poll and post. I can print in mirror writing like no big deal. I don't generally write in cursive anyways - OK, like EVER - so doing mirror writing is hard in cursive.

I'm interested - how does this relate to the ability to read upside down and backwards? I do that so easily and fluently that I'm often startled when the thing I'm reading turns out not to be oriented properly, i.e. toward me. I also have to make a very concerted effort NOT to read things on peoples' desks when I'm sitting across from them at work *grin* No point in having superpowers if you use them for evil, not good, right?

Posted by: Morgan (banshea)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 08:01 am (UTC)

I'm a picture framer. Picture framing glass tends to have one side that goes out and one side that goes in, due to some of the coatings that make the glass do nifty things, and the manufacturers mark it by printing on the edge, "This side faces artwork, score opposite side." There are days when I have to sit there and think very hard about which way the letters are supposed to go, because I can read it just as well from either side of the glass.

Posted by: Pythian Habenero (lienne)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 10:40 am (UTC)
ed norton: thinkyface

I clicked "Easy" because after sitting here staring at the page for a few seconds I managed to scrawl a credible "What in the fuck?" letter by letter with only the occasional pause to figure out which direction I was going again. But some of you guys seem to do it a lot easier than that... XD

Also I can't read the image at the top of the page at all, but I suspect that's because I have trouble reading English cursive in the first place. I got through the Bloody Mary paragraph just fine with the same letter-by-letter method.

Posted by: -=juldea=- (juldea)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)

The poll lacked the option, "Where are the lemurs?"

Posted by: Nathaniel Wolfthorn (ganimede)
Posted at: August 14th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)

Leonardo da Vinci used mirror writing for everything, only using normal writing if it was something meant to be read by others. The general opinion seems to be that this is proof of his genius so I wouldn't be so fast to claim that it's cos your brain is bonkers!

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