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Fascinating Facts about the Tongue

The tongue is a fascinating muscle. It allows us to speak, to sing, to laugh, and to kiss. It helps us in our digestion and allows us to taste all the wonderful culinary delicacies of the world.

The tongue itself is made up of internal and external muscles. The external muscles help to move the tongue in the various directions it needs to move. They also help keep the tongue firmly rooted in place.

The internal muscles allow the tongue to change shape, expand, and contract. These are the most important muscles when it comes to manipulating the tongue for speech.

A lot is known about the tongue, but there is a great deal of misconception as well.

How can we distinguish between fact and fiction when it comes to our food taster? The list that follows will dispel some commonly held misconceptions about the tongue and replace them with some truly unbelievable facts.

The Tongue is the Strongest Muscle in the Body

Even though this is a commonly believed piece of lore about the tongue, it is simply not true. There are many strong muscles in the body, and depending on how you classify strength, the strongest muscle may change.

The heart, with its incessant beating, could be qualify as the strongest. The thigh muscles, or quadriceps, have the most striated muscle fiber density, but the gluteus maximus, also known as the butt, is the largest muscle in the human body.

The jaw muscle is capable of exerting the most force, due to its level-like function. All of these win out over the tongue.

All Tongues Are the Same

Your mouth has an average of 10,000 taste buds. Not all of these are on the tongue. Roughly 2,000 are on the bottom of the tongue, while some are on the lips, inside the cheeks, and the rest on the top of the tongue.

Human tongues can vary in shape and size. Since no two are quite the same, your tongue is as unique to you as your fingerprint. Although there has been little research in the use of your tongue as a source of biometric security, this could change. There may be tongue-print ID scans in the future to replace the use of fingerprint scans.

Even the shapes we can make with are tongues are unique. The ability to roll your tongue is not a genetically inherited trait, as some believe.

Bigger is Always…Weird!

Most people don’t have exceptionally long or wide tongues. Measuring from the back of the tongue to the tip, the average human tongue is roughly four inches, with men’s tongues being slightly longer than women’s.

In the Guinness World Records, the longest tongue belongs to a man in the United Kingdom. It measured 3.86 inches from the tip to the middle of the holders closed top lip. Keep in mind that some of his tongue was still inside his mouth.

A male Pekingese named Puggy holds the record at 4.5 inches for the longest tongue on a dog. This was taken an animal clinic in Texas.

Staying in the animal kingdom, the blue whale—the largest mammal—has a tongue the size of an elephant.

There Are Only Four Tastes

There are five senses associated with taste: bitter, sour, salty, sweet, and umami. The first four should be roughly familiar to most people; umami needs a little bit of explaining. Umami recognizes the savory, things that aren’t sweet or sour, but a delightful combination of deliciousness.

Umami can be found in various cheeses, meats, fruits and vegetables.

Taste buds need to dissolve the chemicals in our food to identify which of the five senses it applies to. Since salt is water-soluble, it dissolves the quickest, making salty the first sense we recognize.

Cats Literally Eat Your Tongue

What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue? It is likely you have heard, or even said these words. You ask this to someone who is speechless or unable to respond to a question. But where does this saying come from?

Some people hold this saying is from ancient Assyria. When prisoners of war were captured, they would have their tongues cut out so they couldn’t speak ill of their new captors. Those tongues were subsequently fed to the king’s cats.

Others hold the saying is derived from the reaction of sailors being punished by a cat o’ nine tails.

Neither of these origins can be confirmed as accurate.

Interestingly enough, a cat’s tongue is lined with backwards facing barbs which acts like a comb during sessions of grooming or can aid to hold their prey in their mouth.

It’s Not Important to Take Care of Your Tongue

The tongue is a complex organ. We need it to accomplish many diverse activities in the world. It is important to take care of this wonderful organ.

Invest in a tongue scraper to help you to get rid of excess bacteria. Use mouthwash to rinse away excessive food particles and other residue.

If you clean your tongue regularly, you can avoid bad breath and other potential problems.