What does It mean When we Stick ours Tongues Out?

relying on context—and placement—tongue protrusion can imply almost anything.

posted September 22, 2015 | reviewed by Lybi Ma

Questions relating to sticking out one’s tongue can turn out to be surprisingly complicated. Its definition in babies and children may be quite different from adult who carry out the exact same thing. Nuances abound: Is the tongue sticking straight out? come the left? Right? Hanging down? Or might it in reality be curled? what’s the accompanying face expression and also context in which that occurs? To include to the question’s complexity, tongue protrusion can represent one thing in one society and the contrary in another.

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This human body language quirk is fascinating since of just how variable the connotations deserve to be. Exploring the subject on the Internet, I can find no critical explanation that it. The is, no scholar appears to have covered tongue protrusion systematically, comprehensively, and cross-culturally. It’s for sure to say that no ultimate, authoritative resource yet exists to account for the phenomenon.

Many writers have noted some fascinating cross-cultural diversities. For example, in Tibet, sticking her tongue out attributes both together a greeting and a authorize of respect. In spicy contrast, as provided by Laurie Patsalides and others, the Maori human being of new Zealand have historically used this gesture as part of a battle chant coming before battle. Contrived come intimidate the enemy, that signifies strength and also ferocity.

The definition of this face gesture can, relying on context and also tongue position, differ enormously. Still, if its income is undeniably subject to interpretation, very few of united state would struggle to master what a tongue protrusion was supposed to convey. As study in this area has repeatedly shown, the good majority of us are primed, as component of our straightforward social intelligence, to accurately identify facial expressions. Uneven we’re autistic, such a “gift” seems hard-wired right into our highly evolved brains. And why would this not be so? because that the indigenous capacity to recognize others’ non-verbal motives and also intentions has noticeable survival value.

To be honest, my initial desire to write something illuminating around tongue protrusion originated from the situation that, in adult at least, I’ve frequently found such “displays” to it is in silly, immature, and offensive. Or, in a word, obnoxious. When to others they can seem playful or childlike, too frequently they"ve appeared to me to have actually a specific defiant “f*** you” high quality to them.

In evaluating the literature on the subject, I first came top top a short article by a Dr. Eowyn entitled “The definition of Miley Cyrus’ Tongue”, who also became curious around the an interpretation of this phenomenon. In her case, that was attached specifically to Miley Cyrus’ famously—or infamously—“performing” the on TV. A 2005 brand-new York Times short article cites the college of mountain Francisco psychology professor, Maureen O’Sullivan:

“The gesture the sticking out one’s tongue have the right to have multiple meanings. It deserve to be an action of rudeness, disgust, playfulness, or outright sexual provocation. . . . It’s like the eyes. An eye gaze deserve to be aggressive to one enemy, but eye gaze can also be the height of intimacy.’”

Doubtless, Cyrus’ exhibitionist plot is naught if no flirtatious and erotically provocative. Nor is there any type of questioning that intentionality—though whether it’s meant simply to titillate us, or come taunt us with its cock-teasing proposal of totally unabashed sexual (or bluntly, oral) availability, is probably a tad ambiguous.

Returning come Laurie Patsalides, as well as distinguishing in between the definition of tongue protrusion among Tibetan world vs. A kindred gesture in Maori warriors, she likewise discusses:

1. Emoticons, as they’ve been provided in the past and also today on computers—as in :-P or =)~ —noting that this emblem have the right to be intended as “silly, flirting, or teasing.” Or, high solution contrasting to this, “mocking: . . . Favor saying ‘pfft’—I don"t want to hear what you need to say". The author’s conclusion: “Without seeing body language and also hearing the tone of voice ~ above the computer, that is easily taken wrongly,” advising reader “to be careful and use the rule of netiquette”

2. The use of tongue protrusion in absent ’n roll, citing that is well-known—even iconic—presentation in The rolling Stones, and also later through Gene Simmons in the tape KISS

3. It is being “developmentally and socially appropriate” in babies since they’re learning just how to imitate others’ communication and manipulate your mouths


4. Einstein’s “trademark” the teasingly sticking out his tongue as soon as photographed, i m sorry he self whimsically described as “reflect his political views” (!).

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What do laypeople have to say around this many curious of facial phenomena? My resource derives from number of online forums centering top top the manifold interpretations this gesture is subject to. Invite to weigh in on your thoughts and feelings about this anomalous, but constantly attention-grabbing, non-verbal display, here—adapted—are several of their responses:

It’s a method of being cute, for it’s implicitly connected with behaviors of youngsters meant come tease or amuse.It’s supplied to highlight the action of having actually just done something really silly or stupid—as in, “Jeez, I simply emailed the not correct person!” together one commenter suitably summarizes it, the a “somewhat sheepish acknowledgment of silliness, foolishness, absent-mindedness, or ineptness."It’s used to connote the one has just made a joke. And, speaking of jokes, here’s an uncommonly scatological one—to me, at when absolutely repulsive and utterly hilarious. Readily available comically by a forum respondent, the recalls: “When we were little kids and also someone stuck your tongue out, we would say, “No, thanks—I usage toilet paper.”In cartoons, that historically shown “stupid/knocked-out/dazed people with their tongues limply hanging out like a dog’s tongue top top a warm day.”It can denote distaste or disgust—a non-verbal way of speak “ew” or “yuck” once eating or drinking something personal abhorrent. One forum discussant adds that a more profound revulsion deserve to be expressed making use of the emoticon “XP,” contrived “to depict a hanging tongue yet eye squinted shut or virtually shut.”It deserve to be a means of apologetically taking ago what was claimed earlier (as in, “What ns told you was a lie.”).It deserve to emphasize or accentuate a categorical rejection or refusal (i.e., I typical “No!”).Perhaps many commonly, it have the right to be used as a gesture that contempt, the really height that impropriety or impoliteness, particularly when one’s tongue is taut and also stuck out directly—with blatantly violation intent. It have the right to relate come proving someone wrong, the accompanying tongue protrusion demonstrating a prideful, or taunting, smugness—an air of superiority. Comically complementing the above, one more commenter offers his very own tongue-protruding experience: “I stuck my tongue out at a woman at a party once, come say ‘I have actually no logical response to her argument, but I declare victory anyway.’ to which she said, ‘Don’t allude that in ~ me uneven you intended to usage it.’ became quite a funny evening.”

Though it’s most likely not crucial to add this, by method of qualification I could note that on chance sticking the end one’s tongue to represent nothing symbolic in ~ all—as in, following the directive of your physician throughout an exam, or expanding your tongue outward simply to clean miscellaneous off her lips. Additionally, tongue expansions in French kissing plainly attach to erotic arousal. A usual act in sexual foreplay, it’s far too expressively “overt” to require any type of metaphorical interpretation.


Much previously I stated the flagrantly erotic nature that Miley Cyrus’s tongue displays. Beyond all the sexual innuendo already described, I’ll finish this tongue-protrusion “catalog” through some added postings “intimately” connecting the gesture to sex-related enticement:

“In the area the Chicago’s Westside . . . It is a gesture that streetwalking prostitutes usage to signal male vehicle drivers that they room hookers and also soliciting a rapid blow-job.” “ . . . Adding a wagging gesture a simulation that cunnilingus, combining the rebelliousness of the tongue-out gesture through a boast of sexual prowess.” “ the tongue is expanded in a planarization shape, v the pointer gracing an arc upwards . . . It means, “I want to perform cunnilingus/fellatio top top you.”

And finally—to break up this, ns hope, informative and entertaining “organ review”—one respondent had this to say about tongue protrusion:

“On a couple occasions, ns have had actually women usage the gesture as an erotic ‘I’d favor to gain to understand you better,’” adding—pointedly—“typically after 1 a.m. In a bar.”