#835 Saliva

Does a body good

You know what’s cheap? Entertaining kids, man.

Honestly, forget the high-def TVs, lower bowl tickets to the big game, or exotic dream vacations to the other side of the rock. Ditch those in favor of an afternoon playing Tag in the backyard, pillow fighting at slumber parties, or skirting death on the playground, and now we’re talking.

Plus, it seems like a lot of kids figure out how to entertain themselves on the cheap, too. I’m not talking Solitaire on the computer, either. I mean those tiny, weird little head games or counting games or pattern games that you see little kids play. You know what I mean? These days it’s referred to as Acute Juvenile-Onset OC-ADHD, but it used to be that kids were just, you know, kind of strange.

When I was younger, I had a few of my own little games — or tics, if you prefer. I put my fingertips together every time I saw a red car, liked to spin around in circles and walk around dizzily, and was always trying to whistle with blades of grass in my mouth, just for fun.

trying-to-whistle-grassThere’s a lot more, but my favorite was this: when I was about six or seven, I used to look down at my shoes and slowly let a thin strand of spit slip slowly from my mouth, as low as it would go, as slow as it would go. And when that bottom-heavy glob of slippery spit looked like it was nearing the breaking point, I sucked real fast, yanking the Air-Chilled Mouth Dangle up in one soaring, majestic move.

It was an art, really.

Of course, back then I had no idea what I was messing with. To me, I was just playing some safe and harmless Spit Games — sometimes even a little Mouth Triathlon happened when I started blowing spit bubbles and gleeking. But the point is I didn’t yet appreciate the powers of the spit I was so mindlessly tossing around. See, it turns out that spit — or saliva, for those in the biz — deserves some serious props. Props I never considered. Check out what it’s got going on:

1. Wets your appetite. Saliva pours out of a few tiny little glands in your mouth at a rate of about 1-2 liters a day. When you’re eating, the saliva tides rise and lather your food to help work it down the dark cavern of your throat. Think of it as food lube.

turn-the-lights-on2. Get your taste on. Now, for all the powers your mighty tongue has, get this: that poor, pink sucker can’t taste a thing when it’s dry. Now, I know this feels like finding out Superman can’t fly when it’s cold out or Darth Vader is afraid of the dark, but it’s true. Dry tongue = tasteless food. So give it up to saliva for keeping everything moist and delicious in there. Way to go, Tastebud Grease.

3. Break it down. Even though over 99.5% of your saliva is just water, there’s some funny business swimming around in the other 0.5%. Yeah, I’m talking about electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and enzymes. What’s all that junk for? Dude, enzymes totally swim up into your food and start wrestling it to bits. They tear starch and fat molecules to smithereens, and give them the what’s what. Sure, the job finishes way down south, but it’s gotta start somewhere.

4. Mouth guards. Even though you only eat every so often, saliva flushes your mouth all day. Well, that’s because our slick friend is busy cleaning house. Yup, the antibacterial compounds chip away at the food stuck in your teeth and the slippery stuff coats and protects your teeth from decay. Not a bad deal.

Now, saliva tends to stay out of your way. You can barely taste it, you forget it’s there, and you don’t have to think about it to get it to work. Brother, it just happens.

It just happens.

It’s just saliva.


spitting-babyPhotos from: here, here, here, and here

14 thoughts on “#835 Saliva

  1. I used to blow spit bubbles when I was little too. I never did let my spit fall almost to the groud and suck it back up though. The first time I had even ever heard of that was in the movie Big Daddy with Adam Sandler. Must be a boy thing. I am curious about you putting your fingers together when you see a red car. Why red? I wish I could remember stuff I did like that when I was a kid. I’m sure I had tons.
    My son is 2 now.. we are past the constant drool stage. When he accidently does drool on himself he says, “OH NO!” and then wipes it off. Its hilarious!
    When I was little and I was thristy, but my dad didn’t want to get me anything, he’d tell me to drink my spit.
    Funny how so many stories could come from your own spit or drool. I drooled on my pillow when I was pregnant. Both times. I don’t know if I just had excessive spit building up in my mouth at night or if I was just that tired that it just rolled out.

      1. Definitely a boy thing! My foster bro’s used to call them lewgies and it was actually endearing when they pinned you to the ground and nearly dropped them in your face or hair…but when they connected, just totally groase!
        As for the red cars and Neil putting his fingers together, I think maybe this was his Oz!

  2. Wow, you make it sound so awesome to have saliva! This makes me feel even better ’cause my dentist told me I produce more spit than usual. Guess that saliva-sucking dental tube has to work extra hard when I’m in the dentist’s chair. LOL! Well, at least now I don’t feel so odd for having a lot of spit…it’s a good thing! Go me and go my appetite-wetting, get-my-taste-on, breaking-it-down mouth-guarding saliva!

  3. Yeah, saliva! Biology is fascinating, and I’m always amazed at just how well everything works together. Anyway, I actually didn’t really play that many games with my spit, but I did let my tongue hang out until it was dry. It felt so weird. When I was a kid, the line between fantasy and reality almost didn’t exist. I loved just going outside and exploring and imagining.

    1. In child psych, it is said~ “Perhaps imagination is intelligence at play!”
      If you’re not playing outside anymore, you’re growing old too soon…
      Get on outside and play again, Max!

  4. A friend taught me to grass-whistle like the bloke in the second photo.

    She regretted it later when, every recess and lunch, I’d pick grass and make annoying, high-pitched shrills. Fun for me! :D

  5. Everything about this post I love, even though I never mastered grass whistling! Heck, I never mastered much of anything strange kids do, like cartwheels and lewgies. Seriously, the wild-life in the forest where I spent a lot of time, totally got me and loved me as I am! (might have been the bread crumbs…)
    First line, one of my favorite things to do! THe other day I started to twang Neil Young’s, “Human Highway” to my 3 month old grandson and he started laughing so hard and drooling at the same time until his eyes were twinkling and his onsie was sopping wet! When I tired of that song and he was crying b/c he’s also teething, I tried to twang “She’ll be coming around the mountain,”…dead pan! “Human Highway,” laughing happy as a lark!!!
    Three days later, still this song and only this song will do…twangy and bouncy like we’re riding a horse!
    Cheers to X-ing the acronym-labels and letting the kids just be kids!
    And adults being big kids too!

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