Babies are funny.
While zooming down the highway with my friend Agostino last week he broke into a story about his one-year-old daughter. Apparently while feeding her a bowl of mushy peas she suddenly started sticking her tongue out, slowly and suspiciously peering down at it, and then wiggling it around.
It was like she suddenly came to the starstruck realization that “I can control this thing!”
And what an amazing day that must be, for you, for me, for anybody. After all, we grow up inside these flabby blobs of flexy muscles, whirring organs, and gurgling body parts, and then discover what everything does along the way.
The mysteries of your tongue are sort of discovered along the way, too. And what beautiful mysteries they are:
1. Tongue got your cat. Yes, the muscles at the back of your tongue help make certain sounds while talking like hard g’s and c’s. Try saying the word “go” or “cat” really slowly and you’ll feel that pink puppy push across the roof of your mouth.
2. Bubble blower. Hey, that wad of chewing gum ain’t gonna balloon into a thin n’ shaky pink bubble on it’s own.
3. Whistle while you work. Think of your mouth like the cold garage where your lips and tongue come together to jam after school. Your lips make a small opening and your tongue gets the bumping grooves going. Also works for singing.
4. Taste the rainbow. When you’re a one-year old baby you’ve got around 10,000 tastebuds covering your tongue and when you’re a wrinkly old fart you’ve got around 5,000. These tiny flavor-detectors are why mushy bananas and macaroni taste so good when you’re a kid and bloody steaks and olives do the job when you’re older. On top of all that, your tongue helps move food to your teeth and then down the gully for digestion. He’s basically the whistle-blowing traffic cop of your body.
5. Clean your fur. If your entire body is covered in fur your tongue helps you clean off instead of taking a bath.
6. French kissing. Apparently swapping spit is a common gesture of affection throughout the animal kingdom with lovers kissing with their tongues in jungles, deserts, and bat caves throughout the world. Evolutionary biologist Thierry Lode even argues that tongue kissing has a real function — to explore a partner’s immune system through their saliva. Yeah, I know: hot.
Once upon a time you discovered your tongue with a profound sense of eye-widening wonder and amazement. Over time you began using its magical powers to try new foods, learn how to speak, sing in the car, or snuggle up with a young love.
So today give three cheers to that fleshy pink slab of greatness sitting inside your hot, disgusting mouth. Use its noble powers today to sit back and scream forward one big booming word with me…
Photos from: here, here, here, and here
— Listen to my podcast 3 Books with Neil Pasricha —