Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Forked tongue

Did you have a word that you misunderstood when you read it as child because it looks so much different in print than it sounds? That word for me was tongue, which I pronounced with a hard g and the extra syllable on the end. That is my gentle lead-in to the subject of today's post: a form of body modification known as tongue-splitting. Considered extreme even among "modern primitives," it involves ventral bifurcation of the first 2" or so of the tongue. It is achieved by means of a laser or scalpel, but because it is a surgical procedure, states are beginning to ban it to prevent it being performed in piercing studios. One critic of an outright ban makes the following argument:
"In a society that endorses breast implants, stomach stapling, nose jobs, tummy tucks, botox, and anything else the cosmetics industry can dream up, it is simply duplicitous to claim that counter-culture tongue splitters are taking too great a risk when they make changes to their own bodies. That there are risks is undisputed. But procedures are done daily in the interest of mainstream beauty that are just as risky, and often more-so. Critics of body modification in all its forms are reacting to its difference, not its validity or safety, and outlawing the practices will prove far more harmful in the long run than regulating its safety by imposing strict regulations. Regulating choice is a far more dangerous act than tongue bifurcation, and critics who claim to be acting in the interest of public health are speaking with forked tongues."
Some tongue-splitters are motivated by the cultural, historical, and spiritual context - others just want to look serpentine. Those who have had their tongues split - estimated to be roughly 1,000 - report that kissing and other activities take on a new spin. Not one to pass judgment, I will admit that this particular form of body modification gives me the willies, since those who do it quickly train the two sides of the tongue to move independently!

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