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Etymology of non-verbal communication? 
Posted: 26 September 2013 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The other day my girlfriend expressed herself by sticking her tongue out at me and it really made me laugh, but it got me thinking about this unique expression. Is there any way to research this sort of thing? One assumes it is cultural, but is it cross-cultural? Is there any way to know if a caveman’s girlfriend stuck her tongue out at him and made him laugh or is it a relatively recent thing? Basic googling got me nowhere. It was a cute way to say “nuts to you” but has that always been the case? I suppose the old raspberry noise is close relative, but is one the father of the other? Does anyone know of any scholarly work on this?

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Posted: 26 September 2013 02:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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What an interesting question.

Wish I had more to contribute, but I don’t…

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Posted: 26 September 2013 05:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In Tibet, it’s a gesture of respect.

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Posted: 26 September 2013 06:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Sticking out the tongue may be a symbol of rejection speculatively traced to the act an infant rejecting the nipple of its mother. I forget where I first heard this.

http://www.replicatedtypo.com/sticking-the-tongue-out-early-imitation-in-infants/6082.html

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Posted: 27 September 2013 12:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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In Romanesque church carvings, human and ape-like figures are routinely shown exposing their sexual organs and/or pulling open their mouths or (if male) pulling their beards or sticking out their tongues; the Devil is also very commonly shown sticking out his tongue. Historians of church art and theology generally reckon that in these depictions the beard and the tongue are visual metaphors for the penis, and that all such figures refer to the sin of lust. However, the mouth-pulling and tongue-sticking surely also refer to Isaiah 57.4: Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood? .

Which of course takes us to the question of what exactly sticking out one’s tongue meant in 8th-century BCE Judea, and why. But with that much tongue-sticking going on above their heads in their parish churches, I think it’s a reasonable inference that 12th-century NW Europeans understood the gesture as one of mockery with sexual overtones.

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Posted: 27 September 2013 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Among the Maori, I believe it’s an aggressive, warlike challenge.

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Posted: 27 September 2013 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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You might want to look at a book about kinesics (under which the study of gesture and other non-verbal communication fall).

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Posted: 27 September 2013 10:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I believe its origins go back many centuries. Gargoyles, ugly heads with protruding tongues, were often added to elevations on churches to ward off evil. It seems the general meaning would stem from the shock value of making a grimace and poking out the tongue to frighten away bad spirits etc. It follows on that anyone wanting to let another know they weren’t welcome, would use this expression for the same purpose.

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Posted: 28 September 2013 05:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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It seems the general meaning would stem from the shock value of making a grimace and poking out the tongue to frighten away bad spirits etc.

This is your interpretation; you have no idea what it meant to the people who created the sculpture.

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Posted: 28 September 2013 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Medieval iconography isn’t my specialty (there are myriad sub-specialties under the rubric of medieval studies), but my understanding is the protruding tongue represents the devouring nature of a demon.

This is my completely wild guess, but the protruding tongue may also have served a practical purpose. Since many gargoyles were gutter spouts, the tongue may have helped contain and direct the flow of water. (I’m not saying this is correct, but I just want to bring up the point that sometimes such symbolism is ascribed at a later date to things that were practical choices.)

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Posted: 28 September 2013 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I remember reading in an early Anthony Burgess novel (I forget which) that sticking your tongue out whilst sticking your thumbs in your ears and waggling them was known as “fat bacon”. Has anyone else heard of this? I know the gesture, certainly, from my youth. He was from Manchester.

[ Edited: 28 September 2013 12:12 PM by venomousbede ]
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Posted: 28 September 2013 09:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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For the benefit of languagehat.

This not my interpretation. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous.

Source: Wikipedia

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Posted: 29 September 2013 12:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Arga, for future reference: it helps if you cite your sources when you post excerpts or opinions from elsewhere. Interesting question and I’m no expert but very small pre-speech babies stick their tongues out before they make definable words.  You can have “conversations” this way. I’m pretty sure they aren’t being rude at two months. Nevertheless it remains a method of communication.

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Posted: 29 September 2013 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Medieval iconography isn’t my specialty (there are myriad sub-specialties under the rubric of medieval studies), but my understanding is the protruding tongue represents the devouring nature of a demon.

That’s not a theory I’ve ever encountered. Where did you hear that one? A problem with it is that, although as I said the Devil was often shown with a protruding tongue, the vast majority of tongue-sticking figures in Romanesque church art are clearly not devils.

This is my completely wild guess, but the protruding tongue may also have served a practical purpose. Since many gargoyles were gutter spouts, the tongue may have helped contain and direct the flow of water.

Actually anthropomorphic gargoyles with protruding tongues are quite rare, certainly compared to the numbers of tongue-sticking figures on corbels, column capitals, roof bosses, etc., and when they do occur the tongue generally is simply the water-spout. Gargoyles in animal form do indeed often have lolling tongues; but then real dogs’ and lions’ tongues do tend to loll when they open their mouths wide, so I don’t think any significance can be placed on this.

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Posted: 29 September 2013 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I may have conflated the devil iconography with gargoyles.

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Posted: 30 September 2013 05:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Once upon a time, you could have been burned at the stake for that.

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