Friday 4 February 2011

Infant Tongues

Here's the opening line of Great Expectations:

My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.

The odd thing is that infant means unable to speak. In means not, and fans was the present participle of the Latin fari, which meant speak. So infans was not speaking.

Incidentally, being tongue-tied is a proper medical condition. It's a congenital disorder whereby the tongue is fastened to the bottom of mouth. If you go to a mirror and make a horrid face you'll see an anchoring bit of flesh at the back middle of your tongue's underside. With those who are tongue tied that bit of skin comes out all the way.

Medical types call it ankyloglossia, because medical types are all frustrated scholars of Greek.

I know a chap who was born tongue-tied, but the doctors snipped his licker free and he has been making up for it ever since.

In the North of England they used to call tongues lollies, which may be the source of lollipop.

Tongue-tied no more


  1. Any connection to "lollygagger"?

  2. The best guess on lollygagger is that it's a someone who lies to you (gags) with their tongue (or lolly).

    But that's only a theory.

  3. This post will take some licking!

  4. My grandad used to make 'tongue' to put in his sandwiches, bringing home a massive ox tongue or such-like and rolling it round in a pot and putting a massive weight on top, then slicing it up. It used to turn my stomach.

  5. The point being (before you wonder why I am telling you about my grandfather's eating habits) that this post made me shiver!