How Tongue Splitting Works

Why Tongue Splitting?

We've already touched on the cultural component of body modification, but why else might someone want a bifurcated tongue? As with all body modifications, people who've undergone the procedure cite a variety of reasons for choosing it. From thrill-seeking and self-discovery to art, politics and spirituality, to simply thinking it looks good, coming up with a reason really hasn't been a problem.

There generally aren't any physical drawbacks to a split tongue (more on that later), so that's a plus. In fact, from a functional sense, those who've had the procedure tend to speak very highly of their new dual appendage (though there is a little retraining involved). Both segments of a bifurcated tongue are able to move independently, meaning that people with a split tongue have more manual dexterity -- which is said to be quite the benefit when it comes to kissing [source: Siegel].


When it comes to procedures such as tongue splitting, many in the body modification community liken the process -- the anticipation, the actual procedure and even the pain -- to a spiritual experience. They report a sense of euphoria both during and after a tongue splitting, with others claiming that the act of tongue splitting and other body mods doesn't just alter one physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well. In fact, there's even a whole organization, the Church of Body Modification, designed specifically around the concept of body modification as a process of enlightenment [sources: CoBM; Vaughn].

Proponents of tongue splitting also argue that perceptions of appearance are relative. They point out that many other types of cosmetic body modification -- think ear piercings, breast implants, face-lifts, circumcision -- are so commonplace and socially accepted that we rarely give them a second thought. The argument goes that we are entering an age where body modification of all sorts -- cosmetic, medical, even cybernetic -- will become increasingly commonplace, leading to different and constantly changing standards of both beauty and identity [sources: Associated Press; Diaz].

They could be right, but predicting future cultural trends isn't really something we're going to attempt here. Instead, let's look to the past to understand how tongue splitting got to this point in modern life.