Tongue trouble

When I was ten or so years younger, reading newspapers was a tradition in our family. The Sunday newspaper was never missed, and we would walk with my brothers 2 or so kilometers to buy a copy every Sunday morning.

After flipping through the pictures, I would home in on ‘Young Nation’, a section with content more suited for the younger lassie and lads. The ‘Did You Know?’ column really enamored my young, uncultivated brain, and from it, I learned that the tongue was the strongest muscle in the body, among a host of other facts that filled my impressionable mind with awe.

I sometimes miss those days when emotions were much more free-flowing. Nowadays life conjures up all sorts of interesting stuff only to be met with a Kanye-esque face.

One Serge Aurier (all football enthusiasts say aye) was hailed a hero a while back when he tamed the tongue of an opposition player. No, not figuratively, literally. Not literally that way. Let’s keep our thoughts within civilized realms.

Yet what he did was life-saving. The other fellow had collapsed in the line of football duty and lay on the pitch face up in a state of unconscious limbo. Our hero rushed to the aid of his hapless comrade and quickly held his (the player who fainted) tongue before he was turned to face sideways. After that, the medics came and did what they do best.

That scene looks strange, weird, and a bit yuck. True. So why did Serge embark on a project which beggars queer adjectives? Well, let’s try to find out. The tongue is strong, no doubt…but much like the limbs, it needs instructions from its master (the brain/you) without which it assimilates a lifeless configuration.

There’s nothing wrong with the limbs taking a break, but the tongue lying in a stupid state spells trouble, especially so when someone is facing God’s home.

The tongue basks in freedom in the mouth and that makes eating and talking a joy, but that very freedom is the reason Serge had to open someone’s mouth and hold the tongue in place. Otherwise, it would have rolled back into the throat, blocking the airway through a fancy mechanism that involves one epiglottis.

The whole process is an essay worth 20 marks and I know reading biology essays may not necessarily be on your bucket list, so I will spare you the medical jargon, but basically the epiglottis blocks the windpipe any time the throat is obstructed.

(This is useful for making sure that pulverized food does not get lost on its way to the stomach and end up in the lungs after being swallowed. The lungs are clueless about digesting food.) The flaccid tongue will now act as the blocker, and asphyxiation will be the boot that kicks you to the Maker you were facing. An unfashionable and sad way to go.

Emulating the actions of Serge would therefore be in order if anyone is unfortunate to find themselves in a supine position unwillingly. Flaccid tongues love tired bodies. Having the victim (or their head) lie on their side or in the recovery position would stop the unwanted adventures of the tongue. What is the recovery position, you ask? Well, for once the accompanying image for this article is not purely decorative.

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