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Discovery Magazine 7/1/2014

Your Terrific Tongue

God designed our bodies so that each part has an important role to play. Sometimes we need big muscles and bones like those in our legs to run or jump. At other times we need strong muscles, such as those in our hearts, to pump blood. There is one little organ that is not very big, but it plays a huge role in our lives: the tongue. 

Your tongue weighs about 2.5 ounces. It is only about 2-3 inches long, but it performs some of the most important tasks in your body. For one, it helps you speak and make the kinds of sounds you need for language. Without a tongue, you would not be able to communicate with others using words that they could understand. Just think how much more difficult your life would be if you could not use your voice to tell a doctor what part of your body hurts when you are sick. Just imagine not being able to tell your friends a story using your tongue and language.

In addition, your tongue acts as a cleaner. Have you ever gotten a popcorn hull stuck between your teeth? Do you remember how your tongue felt it and you kept trying to get it unstuck? You might not even realize how often you run your tongue around your teeth each day to check for little food particles that are not supposed to be there. Furthermore, your tongue plays a major role in helping you swallow your food. It “grabs” the food that you eat and puts it in the proper place in your mouth so you can swallow it properly. Your tongue is a tireless worker, it does not “sleep” at night, but is constantly working by pushing saliva to the back of your mouth so you can swallow it.

You might find it interesting that your tongue is very strong. It is composed of several muscles that work together to make it one of the strongest organs for its size in your body. Some people have lifted weights of over 20 pounds with their tongues! If you look in the mirror and stick out your tongue, you will see hundreds of small red bumps. Those are called papillae (pa-pil-lee); the singular form is papilla and is pronounced like it is spelled. Many people mistake these bumps for taste buds. They are not taste buds. They are designed to make your tongue have grip, similar to the tread on truck or tractor tires.

Your taste buds are so small you cannot see them in a mirror. You have between 3,000-10,000 of them on your tongue. Not only do they allow you to taste different kinds of food, but they also protect you. If food is rotten or contains harmful bacteria, your taste buds often pick up a “bad” taste that warns you not to eat that food. The shape of your tongue, along with the pattern of papillae on it, is so unique that it is like your own special “fingerprint” (or should we say “tongue print”). There is no one else in the world that has a tongue that looks exactly like yours.

God designed your tongue to be a special, important organ in your body. He gave it many interesting and remarkable jobs. It is right that we should use our tongues to praise God and tell others about His marvelous power and love. We should never use our tongues and speech to bring other people down, call them bad names, use curse words, or lie. The apostle Peter said: “He who would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Peter 3:10). Even though our tongue is very little, it is powerful and important (James 3:1-9). Let’s use our tongues to thank God for designing and creating such a wonderful body part!

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*Please keep in mind that Discovery articles are written for 3rd-6th graders.

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