Who Knew?

Jamie McFarlin

There are a lot of onomatopoeic adjectives used for labeling a noise that is produced via the human body – burp, sneeze, chomp, hiccup. My favorite by far is borborgymi, which basically means audible, rumbling stomach sounds. Even the word kiss is derived from a hypothesized onomatopoeia – the old English word coss: “a kiss.”
The etymology of the word kiss is similar to the conceptualization of kissing in that, in my experience, neither topic is especially common in casual conversation. The history and evolution of kissing, though, are of interest.
The technical term for kissing is osculation. Whether kissing is instinctive or learned is something even philematologists (philematology: the science of kissing) are uncertain of, but it is a behavior observed in most cultures and even in some nonhuman primates like bonobos. Only about 10 percent of humans cross-culturally don’t partake in osculating.
In the sixth century, the act of kissing was accepted as being emblematic of romance and affection. Scientifically, it is conjectured that during the act of kissing, pheromones communicate and decide subconscious attraction.
People find pheromones that are most different from their own more appealing than those that are similar. The evolutionary explanation for this is that a wider array of genetics provided by a quality mate would contribute to a healthier offspring.
Just a kiss takes around 20 muscles all working coordinately. A person, on average, spends two weeks of life kissing. The desire to kiss is linked to the fact that the mouth and tongue are packed full of nerve endings easily incited. In France, a French kiss is termed a soul kiss or a tongue kiss. According to recordholders.org, the longest kiss ever recorded took place in 2001 and lasted 30 hours, 59 minutes and 27 seconds. Beat that – I’m rooting for you, tiger.