Body Language 53 The Tongue

November 9, 2019

The tongue is actually used a lot in body language. We often do not realize it, but that part of the body is highly visible and capable of sending all kinds of messages because it is easily manipulated.

Sticking out the tongue is an obvious signal. That is the most common gesture, and it normally is an insulting or mocking gesture.

Be a little careful here because sticking out the tongue can have several different meanings in itself and have various meanings in different cultures.

Neah Na Na Neah Neah

This is the classic tongue gesture intended to mock another person. Often you will see the tongue in a round configuration jutting out as far as the person can manage. A person will usually not have the tongue flat when making this kind of gesture, although sometimes you may see that done.

Awful taste

If someone bites into something spoiled or bitter that tastes horrible, then the tongue might come out flat like, “This tastes awful.” The gesture usually is accompanied by a puckering of the entire face and tightly closed eyes.

Tongue curl

You may see a person stick out her tongue and then curl the tip of it upward. There are numerous interpretations of this gesture all the way from obscene suggestions to beckoning, or pleading.

Tongue in cheek

When a person thrusts his tongue into his cheek so it bulges out, the common interpretation is that what has just been said or done is a spoof. The same gesture can indicate puzzlement, like the person is trying to interpret what just happened.

The common expression for someone fabricating a story is that he was speaking “tongue in cheek.”

Clicking tongue

This gesture is rare, but you will encounter it at times. It is usually a way to draw attention to something significant that just happened. The audible clicking sound with no specific words is an indication to pay attention to something important.

The same gesture is also used by children as a way to get attention or just to annoy other people.

Licking lips

When the tongue is used to lick the lips, it is a signal of desire for something. It usually has to do with food, but it can also take on a social connotation of desire.


Children will stick their tongue out of the side of their mouth and cover their upper lip when they are concentrating on an art project, puzzle or other challenging activity.


When the tongue is extended downward from the side of the mouth it is often a sign of extreme attraction or lust.

Making a straw

You can curl your tongue lengthwise forming a kind of tube. The concept here is wanting to drink in what is being discussed. It is also a facial expression used by children to make a funny face.

Biting the tongue

When a person bites his tongue, it usually is a negative sign. It may be a signal to shut up, or it may be a sign that what is going on is highly distasteful. The implication is that the person is inflicting self-pain in order to block the pain that is coming from what he has seen or heard.

Another interpretation of biting the tongue is to prevent a person from talking. You may hear the expression “bite your tongue,” which means “do not speak.”

Since we can manipulate our tongue in many ways that are perfectly visible to other people, it plays a huge role in body language. Be alert to the signals being sent to you by others with their tongue. See if you can spot some different meanings I have not covered in this article. It’s kind of fun.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”

Body Language 48 Concentration

October 5, 2019

If you have ever watched a child at play with a complex set of toys or tasks, you will relate to this picture.

Here we see a young girl totally absorbed in the complexity of building a structure with Lego blocks. She is definitely not multitasking at the moment.

This ability is not universal, as there are some children with different abilities that may impact their ability to concentrate. For example, a child with ADHD might find it more difficult to focus for long periods of time.

As adults, we rarely show this level of intensity. That’s because we have other things that are allowed to distract our attention from the task at hand. If you would attempt to focus 100% of your attention on the task you are trying to perform the way a child does, you might just blow a fuse.

In his hilarious program “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage,” Mark Gungor cites some studies indicating that women are more adept at multi-tasking, while men are generally single tasking beings.

Mark did not share his source, and the research may be suspect due to changes in the technology people use to communicate. He is quick to point out that he speaks in stereotypical generalities and that not all men prefer single tasks and not all women are good at multitasking.

My own observations are that in some circumstances I do well with multitasking while most of the time I like to work on one thing at a time. It has to do with individual preferences and also the specific tasks involved.

For example, if I am working on projects where there is time required to let the paint dry on one area before proceeding, I like to have several projects going simultaneously, so I can keep busy in what would be the slack times.

Most of the time, like when writing or generating content, when I try to multi-task, I get confused and need to start all over, one thing at a time.

Does this make men better at concentrating than women? I think not. I think most women have the ability to handle different activities and concentrate on them all at once. Men may have the tendency to focus on one thing to the exclusion any distractions, but it is individual and situation specific.

What is it about kids that they have the ability to be so excited about creating something that they can shut out all forms of distraction? What is the process whereby that ability became diluted with the maturing process, and how can we resurrect it for brief periods of time the way a child does?

I believe the answer is in the child’s ability to imagine and be curious. The child sees the blocks (or crayons, or whatever the current vehicle is) as a form of reality in their minds. Certainly they are aware that the crayons are simply sticks of colored wax, but they take on the magic ability to actually create life in their hands.

Adults have a hard time forgetting that the creative tools are just surrogates for reality. Kids have no concept of what surrogates are.

There are some adults who can emulate the child-like concentration, at least for some periods of time. I am thinking of my now-deceased father (who died at 101), who loved to paint pictures for the last half of his life. He would paint mostly on location, all over the globe.

While he was actively creating the scene, he was almost oblivious to what was happening around him. A bull could sneak up from behind him, and he would not notice. If it started to rain, someone would have to drag him inside.

Over a period of 30 years, he painted roughly 2000 beautiful watercolor pictures that we are now blessed to enjoy and share with others.

I believe that many artists are so caught up in their creation that the scene becomes reality for them while doing the work. It is the same for programmers or writers who get caught up in the creative process.

So, my thesis is that highly creative people do have a greater ability to turn on and off their concentration and become more like children when they are doing what they love. Would you agree with this analysis?

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on or on this blog.