Sure, why not? What’s next? What’s that? You want more? Drat. Well, I started the week with cows. Then I moved on to giraffes. So naturally, I’ve now moved on to tongues. Yes, as if you thought this blog couldn’t get any more exciting, today, we’re going to learn all about tongues! By the end of today, you’ll be well and truly licked. Which… which sounded a lot less sordid in my head. Hmm. The human tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth. A man’s average tongue length is 3.3 inches long, whilst a woman’s tongue averages at 3.1 inches long. We use our tongues for taste, mastication, speech and intimacy. Like dribbling on someone’s doodle during sexy times and licking it off, which I hear is a lot nicer than it sounds. This, however, is a very bad idea. One of the functions of saliva is to help with digestion, as it contains an enzyme named amylase, helping to break down carbohydrates. So every time you spit on something, whether it’s the ground or… other bits… you’re actually covering it something that will start to digest it. And that would not make a very good morning after. “Hang on… didn’t I have a penis last night?”
We also use our tongues to stick them out at people, often considered a childish gesture, but not by everyone. In some countries, it contains sexual connotations, whilst in Tibet, it’s considered a greeting. Amongst the Maori people of New Zealand, sticking the tongue out is part of a war chant, meant to intimidate the enemy. In 2009, a farmer from Fabriano, Italy, was convicted and fined by the country’s highest court for sticking his tongue out at a neighbour, who proved the heinous act by filming it on a camera phone. Oh, dear. And they say Italians are chilled out…
One-fifth of young adults have at least one type of oral piercing, for art and… pleasurable reasons, so I’ve heard. I mean, I’d take it out because I wouldn’t want it to get caught on any fun bits, but okay… What we use our tongues most for is eating, but did you know that many cultures eat the tongue itself? Yes, major ew factor, now. Hot tongue sandwiches are frequently found on menus across the world. In America we have taco filled with beef tongue, whilst in Colombia, we have tongue in sauce. In China, they enjoy duck tongue, whilst in Eastern Slavic countries, pork and beef tongues are boiled and eaten.
You’re all sick.
The average tongue enjoys thousands of taste buds, somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000. People with more than 10,000 taste buds are known as supertasters. By nerds, probably. Our taste buds die and fall away every 10 days, but don’t worry, they are replaced. Until you die, of course. Our taste buds are invisible to the naked eye, and, despite what our school science books teach us, you can’t taste different tastes in different areas of the tongue. Nope. It’s as false an idea as male fidelity. And here’s something else remarkable: they don’t only live on the tongue. Oh, no. You’ll also find your taste buds on your cheeks, lips, the roof of the mouth, and even under the tongue. But if you find them on your elbow, call a doctor…
If I asked you if the tongue was the strongest muscle in your body, you’d probably nod your head if indeed you haven’t already nodded off out of boredom. At this point, it’s probably best if you just forget everything your science teacher ever told you about the tongue, because none of it is true. There are no ‘taste maps’ and yes, the tongue isn’t the strongest muscle in the body. However, I will concede, I am being pedantic here. The tongue is actually made up of eight different muscles. It’s a bit like saying Agnetha Fältskog was the best member of ABBA. I mean, come on, they’re all your favourite or you’re not an ABBA fan.
I forget what point I was trying to make. Hmm, anywho…
The colour of one’s tongue is a lot like the colour of one’s pee. Its colour says a lot. If your pee is light, you’re drinking enough, if it’s dark, you’re not. And I mean water, not booze. If it’s purple, again, might want to pay a visit to the doctor. A strong and healthy tongue is a hearty shade of pink, whilst a bright-red colour signals danger. Or that you’ve been eating lipstick. White patches on the tongue mean you have thrush, whilst a smooth tongue means you need more folic acid, vitamins and iron. Might need to wash some clothes for that one.
The blue whale has the largest tongue of any animal, weighing around 425 stone. That’s like… 47 of me. Or four times as heavy as a cow. Or… 7,500 times heavy as a can of soup. Apparently. But for a truly remarkable record, let’s take a look at the anteater, whose tongue is two-feet long and half-an-inch wide. No other mammal has a tongue as long relative to its body size. It can lick at 150 times per minute. It can get through an ice cream in no time…
Chameleons use their tongues to grab their prey. These elastic tongues shoot out when the victim is approaching and bam, end of ol’ Gary the cockroach. At the end of the tongue is a thick mucus, and the prey sticks to this. The tongue is then quickly drawn back into the mouth. Chameleons have the fastest tongue on Earth at 13 miles-per-hour. That’s 10 times faster than an iceberg.
Snakes, meanwhile, use their forked tongues not for tasting alone but for tasting and smelling the air around them. When a snake rapidly flicks its tongue, each side of the fork collects airborne chemicals. When retracted, the tips of the fork fit into two small openings at the roof of the mouth, known as vomeronasal organs. The chemical information is then passed through the organs to the brain. Wouldn’t it have been easier to give them half-decent eyesight? I got a feeling God was bored when He invented snakes.
Human tongues aren’t rich in such abilities, but many regard the ability to roll or curl one’s tongue as a type of ability. Some think this is genetic, and, indeed, this is what is taught to us in school. Now, we’re also taught that tongue maps are a thing and that our tongues are the most powerful muscle in the body, neither of which is true. So, is the tongue roll genetic, as we are also taught? Kind of. It’s a mix of genetics and environment. Whilst many view the tongue rollers as some kind of weirdoes harbouring a bizarre natural trait, in fact, 85% of the world’s population can do this, so if you can’t, you’re the weird one, OKAY MICHAEL! Sorry, mind on other things…
A recent study by Cornell University’s food science department… sigh… found that loud, noisy environments compromise our sense of taste, perhaps explaining why airplane food really does taste like the dog’s bollocks. The study found that people travelling on airplanes had suppressed sweet receptors and enhanced savoury receptors. German airplane company Lufthansa confirmed that, on flights, passengers ordered nearly as much tomato juice as beer. So there you have it. Taste is affected by environment. So if you’re thinking about having a romantic dinner in a sewer, it won’t go well. Surprisingly, may I add.
The longest human tongue on record was 3.97 inches long, for a man, whilst for a woman, it was an equally as impressive 3.8 inches long. Both American. Hmm. If you’re desperately wondering how long that is in cans of soup, you’re out of luck. I aint doing that anymore. I can tell you that it’s 80 times as long as a grain of sand, though. Ha, and you thought life would be easier under the metric system…
And, just in case you’re wondering, Thomas Blackstone holds the record for the world’s strongest tongue, lifting a weight of 24 pounds and 3 ounces. If you’re wondering how he did this, he put a hook through his tongue and dangled the weight off that. Lovely image, isn’t it? Can you even imagine lifting the equivalent of thirty cans of soup off your tongue? Golly.
Are tongues swell? Yes. I think they are. They are an incredible part of the human body and I think they deserve more credit than they get. So next time you’re looking in a mirror, stick out your tongue and thank it. As best as you can with a tongue hanging out of your mouth…
But do you find tongues neat, reader-pops?
Image (Click on It to Enlarge)
1) A Tibetan man greeting you. As they do…
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