Do you remember the days when one of the most offensive gestures toward another person was to stick your tongue out at them?
In my early childhood, I remember sticking one’s tongue out at another child being equivalent to flipping someone the bird, or dropping an F bomb in grade six or seven. In my kindergarten class, kids would be severely scolded if caught in the act; they’d be subject to a time out, forced to apologize and publicly shamed in front of the entire class. The shaming in front of the class particularly stung if there happened to be a girl in the class on whom you had a crush – just crushing to a young boy’s confidence.
|This kid means business. The blood on|
his tongue indicates what comes next if
you continue to mess with him.
Photo by Arvind Balaraman
It would be especially defeating to be subject to one of these seemingly draconian punishments as a result of a tattletale. Some teachers were not tolerant of tattlers, and would stoically refuse to act on hearsay. Others were more inconsistent and would sometimes punish a child for sticking their tongue out based solely on the accusation of a four-year-old nipper* who still needs reminding to wipe his nose. It seems that a teacher would be more likely to act on hearsay in situations where the accused was a particularly snot-nosed little brat.
Once (I must have been four or five) I was tattled on for sticking my tongue out. I was out with my mom somewhere and we were waiting in line for something. I don’t know what we were waiting in line for, but it must have been taking a long time, because I decided to sit down on the floor at my mom’s feet. Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who was tired of standing in line; there was a red headed kid, about my age, who was also sitting at his mother’s feet.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something I didn’t like about this kid. Looking back at it now, it probably had something to do with the fact that he looked like the red headed kid from A Christmas Story; not the bully, but the kid in the classroom who in this clip at 4:50 says, “Holy cow, it’s the fire department!”. That kid always bugged me**. Anyways, since I didn’t like the look of this kid, I naturally stuck my tongue out at him. Sure, it was probably unfair of me to pass judgment based solely on the fact that he looks like a character from a movie who I don’t like, but he proved my instincts were correct when he tugged on my mom’s pant leg, and tattled on me. No one likes a tattler.
I assume that tongue-sticking-out is still taken as seriously in the kindergarten classrooms of
North America as it was when I was in school. In the adult world, however, the act is rarely used with the intention of seriously offending someone. Sticking your tongue out at someone is really a playful, tongue in cheek*** sort of gesture.
Once an expletive phrase becomes a regular part of your vocabulary, it tends to loose its oomph. Many modern insults are used with such regularity that they scarcely offend the intended target. I mean, I barely even flinch when someone calls me a motherf**ker. That’s why I’ve decided to change things up. I’m bringing back the tongue. The next time my tongue passes the threshold of my lips and is pointing at you, don’t think you can just laugh it off—I’m pissed.
*That almost sounds like a derogatory term, doesn’t it? I used a thesaurus to find it.
** I don’t have anything against redheads. I was just always bothered by that kid’s over acting. Isn't it also ironic that he appears in the scene about a kid getting his tongue stuck to a pole?
* **The pun was intended. I know, it’s a contradiction; how can you stick your tongue out at someone, all the while keeping your tongue in your cheek?