A couple of us were discussing those odd facts that you know for absolutely no reason whatsoever. This is often the basis for a good long session of talking amiable bollocks.

This one I did know, but it’s worth a retelling. Why do we shake hands righthanded? Yo might speculate that it’s because the majority of people are righthanded, but you’re only halfway there. And lefties follow the convention.

In the past it was a way of showing that you weren’t going to pull your sword on the other guy, since the sword for the more common righties would be on the left hip, and hence readily accessible with the right hand but not the left. It was a way of showing you weren’t armed and weren’t going to get medieval on the other guy’s arse*.

Incidentally, in many places in the world, particularly Islamic states, you wipe clean your bum with your left hand. Hence you don’t swap faeces with your fellow shaker. That’s why when they cut hands off, they take the left one, so your shame is doubled by needing to eat with the hand you use for your anal ablutions.

Related topic, and one I also knew of. If you’ve ever been in a castle, you’ll know they make extensive use of spiral** staircases. They always climb clockwise. The staircase itself restricts access to marauders. And the guys up top have more room to swing their right arms effectively, while the baddies coming up the stairs have their forehand swing hampered by the inner wall or railing.


And the good guys already have the higher ground advantage. Win-win. Unless the attacker is a leftie, of course. Then you’re stuffed.

If you’re a bit of a nerd like myself, next time you see a Middle Ages blockbuster, check the direction of rotation of the staircases. Occasionally Hollywood gets it wrong, and that can annoy me.

This one I didn’t know. Why do we clink glasses before we have a drink with somebody? There’s a lot of twaddle you can find about how holding the glass allows you to see, and smell, the drink, and hence enjoy it more. That’s such utter nonsense I was tempted not to include it.

The reality is interesting, for me at least. In the good old days of wooden mugs or drinking horns, you smashed them together heartily with your fellow drinkers, the aim being that some of your ale would slop into his mug, and some of his would slop into yours. It was a way of saying, ‘If you’ve poisoned my drink, I just poisoned yours.’ We now use dainty glassware, but the habit has remained.

My mate Jack, with whom I was discussing this and the righthanded shaking thing, said, ‘They had some serious trust issues back then.’

*Of course, shake hands with a sinister and you could end up skewered.

**Strictly they’re helical, but hey! Whatever.