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July 21, 2014

This isn’t strictly to do with language, but it is to do with tongues, so I’ve decided it’s within my remit. The other day I saw a photo of the cyclist Albert Contador, expressing triumph by allowing his tongue to loll out of his mouth like a great big floppy pink sea cucumber (this was before he’d had to drop out of the Tour de France). And in the World Cup numerous footballers did it, Arjen Robben being a notable culprit. I have a feeling that Gareth Bale started it – at least, he was the first sportsman I noticed doing it.

We imitate gestures in the same way we imitate words, phrases and expressions, and maybe athletes are particularly prone to it, since they perform in the public eye, their performances are recorded, and they watch each other. Did any tennis players blow on their fingers before Bjorn Borg? Or scream when hitting the ball before Monica Seles? But I really can’t see any excuse for displaying your tongue as a token of triumph. It just looks stupid and childish and ugly. But maybe that’s the point? Perhaps the tongue display means, “I’m so brilliant that I can afford to look like a twat”. 

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