From your first kiss to your last meal, your tongue has given you the best moments of your life. Without this oblong-shaped muscle, you would always be at a loss for words. But what if you had more than you could deal with? What if your tongue was twice as long? How would you speak? What would happen to your sense of taste? And could you ever sleep again?
From the tip of the tongue to the base of your mouth, the average tongue varies from 7.9 cm (3.1 in) to 8.5 cm (3.3 in) long. So if your tongue were twice as long, it would measure over 17 cm (7 in). While some people might create a novelty act out of this muscle, no one outside the animal kingdom has ever experienced the burden of a tongue this long.
Even Gerkary Bracho Blequett, who has one of the longest tongues on record, only measures up to 11.4 cm (4.48 in). But can she reach her elbow? Wow, never mind.But if your tongue longer than hers, would you choke to death?
The human tongue can move in all directions to produce various sounds and protect your body from foreign objects. And all from its position anchored at the base of your mouth. But if your tongue were twice as long, you might not be able to talk. You couldn’t move your tongue to the back of your mouth to make the ‘s’ sound because your head couldn’t hold this freakishly large muscle. You would need to develop non-verbal communication skills, whether you’re texting or using sign language.
And if you can’t talk, it might be harder to let someone know you’re choking to death. That’s because the sensitive nerves located on the tip of your tongue allow you to feel the pain of sharp objects entering your mouth, like small bones. But if your tongue were constantly hanging out of your head, this defense mechanism would be useless. And that’s not the only way this muscle protects your body. More on that later.
With the extra space on your extra-large muscle, you might have more room for taste buds. People with more than 30 taste buds in an area the size of a hole punch belong to the elite group known as supertasters. Compare that to the average person who might only have 15 to 30 taste buds in that same amount of space. Since you would taste so much more, every flavor, bitter or sweet, might send you into a sensory overload.
Of course, that’s assuming you can get actual food into your body. Since you wouldn’t be able to close your mouth, you wouldn’t be able to chew. Instead, you would have to have your food liquified and syringed onto the back of your tongue or take your nutrients through an IV.
And with so many papillae on your tongue, your mouth might become a breeding ground for bacteria. These raised grooves collect bits of food and residue from every meal. So each bite of protein-rich foods like milk or cheese could live in your mouth long past their expiration dates. Your morning breath would last all day long.
If the thought of all these live bacteria inside your mouth doesn’t keep you up at night, maybe sleep apnea would. After all, your colossal tongue would get in the way when you’re breathing, causing you to snore or wake up throughout the night. And like your heart, your tongue works during your sleep. While you rest, your tongue helps you swallow the excess fluids building in your mouth. So if you couldn’t find a way to restrain your supersize tongue, you might choke on your own saliva.
The tongue works as the last defender against harmful substances trying to enter your body. Your body’s gag reflex triggers when the area on the back of your tongue contracts. But with a tongue this huge, you may not be able to force out anything other than a groan.
And since your mouth would never be closed, you might be drooling everywhere. Your teeth could become misaligned and protrude outwards. And your tongue would become dry and maybe even infected.
Your mouth cavity can’t hold a tongue this long. The only way you could resume an everyday life would be through surgery. But if you had enough extra room in your head, maybe you could make space for this mega muscle and all those high-level ideas in your mind. So what would happen to you if your brain were twice as big?
- “Macroglossia – NORD (National Organization For Rare Disorders)”. 2021. NORD (National Organization For Rare Disorders).
- “The Effects Of Tongue Stretching Exercise On Tongue Length In Healthy Adults: A Preliminary Study”. Kim, Won-Jin, Jong-Bae Choi, Ji-Su Park, and Sang-Hoon Lee. 2017.Journal Of Physical Therapy Science 29 (11)
- “Supertaster: Definition, Benefits, And Drawbacks”. 2021. Healthline.
- “The Surprising Complexity Of Tongue Anatomy And Its Many Functions“. 2021. Verywell Health.
- “Longest Tongue (Male)“. 2012. Guinness World Records.
- “How Does The Tongue Work?“. How. 2016.Institute For Quality And Efficiency In Health Care (Iqwig).